Stories I'm hearing
Stories I'm hearing on the street, in the news, etc.
I’m putting a flyer together for my upcoming talk at the KGB Bar, and ran it past a colleague who’s a designer. She got halfway through the headline—“a monologue about why Americans are so ambivalent about growing old”—and blurted, “I’m not ambivalent about it!”
“How do you feel about getting old?” I asked.
“Do you want to die young?” Stephanie shook her head.
“Then you’re ambivalent.” D’oh.
I’ve long been leery of the way wisdom is bandied about as an auto-accessory of old age, like spryness and shrinking. It doesn’t come with the territory, and its association with passivity has political repercussions. (See “against wisdom.”) But I just came across a wonderful definition from a San Francisco-based psychologist named Todd Finnemore, whom I interviewed in May, 2010, when I was investigating why medical practitioners choose to work with older populations.
My partner and I are just back from a three-week trip to Vietnam, where we encountered people from all over the world, including Finland, South Africa, New Zealand, Luxembourg, Singapore, Canada, Holland, and Moldova. Most were far younger than us, some our age, and a notable few significantly older.
Last March I questioned novelist Louis Begley's grim assessment of the "awful discontents" of his and his mother’s later years. How surprising and pleasing, then, to come across this paean to his wife of many years in yesterday’s New York Times. It tells how the "handiwork of time" has enabled him to become more worthy of her, and to love her - and much else about his life - better and more deeply as the decades passed.
My poor kids. My son Murphy, a computer scientist, was talking last week about a system for archiving mathematics research on the web. "The problem is that a lot of the important papers are by people who are really old now," he said. Uh oh. The problem, I promptly pointed out, isn't age but technological illiteracy. While older scientists were indeed less likely to race to post their work online, it was wrong to assume so on the basis of age alone. He got it, with his characteristic sweet smile, though he probably felt more like kicking me.