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Michael Toms’s interview with Mark Gerzon [“The Second Half of Life,” October 1996] was exactly what I needed. I am in my forties and have come to the realization that I need a change. But when I tell others that I now plan to do what I truly want, rather than what is expected of me, they seem scandalized by my pronouncement. Thanks to Gerzon, I no longer feel selfish in my quest for self-fulfillment.
Mark Gerzon’s ideas on aging [“The Second Half of Life,” October 1996] are superficial. He seems set on saying what an aging public would like to hear, and little of it rings true for me. I’m seventy-one, and the one universal truth I’ve discovered about the aging process is that you may change what you do and why you do it, but not who you are.
We gain experience as we go through life, but our ability to learn from it decreases, our memories fail, and the likelihood we will produce anything worthwhile lessens. Some people hold up better than others, and it is important for the image of the aged as a group that these fortunate few maintain a high visibility.
If you want an idea of what you might have to contend with in old age, look at your parents (and their parents). Being spiritually inclined doesn’t make you any more prepared to deal with your genetic legacy — be it cancer, Alzheimer’s, or whatever — although it might help you to be less outraged by it all.
The young have more need of spirituality than the aged, as it is the young who have to act as caretakers. They need to be patient and wise, but we will not inspire them to be so by lying to them, or to ourselves.