What’s up, Alex Blum. You’re a young fella, no? I’m 47 but still young in spirit, though I have my gravitas, and increasing aches and pains. But not so bad yet. Stray hairs too, in the unlikeliest places. Occasionally some rebel eyebrow hairs declare independence from the others, a couple going crazy; or I find a hair jutting long and simple out of the lobe or rim of one of my ears, all by its lonesome there, staking its claim as if the first man on the moon. I can’t stand such insolence: I fetch the tweezers. Indulge me and allow me to imagine you as younger than you probably are, in your early twenties, or even younger, and imagine me as older than I actually am, gray hair and wrinkles. (For fun imagine me with a southern drawl, with a pot belly, wearing blue jean overalls, a big straw hat, and picking my teeth with a toothpick between every few sentences.) Really glad for your contribution here. I heartily agree with the words you posted here. I hope what’s happening now scares the bejesus out of migratory Dems, flyin’ half-hearted and drowsily, wings grown so heavy, and sends 'em spiraling back down to the grassroots. The focus should be on plain economics and issues which revolve around making lives better (living wage, affordable housing, medical coverage, a clean and healthy environment) regardless of race, sexual orientation, religion. That shit always distracts attention from the real issues which most everyone experiences and cares about in their concrete everyday lives.
I think many people, scared, confused and desperate, when in such a state, are easily stirred up by demagogic personalities and manipulated by them, falling prey to their self-serving schemes and empty promises. I feel both terrified for our country and very sad. There’s this saying, never trust someone over 30. Now that I’m up at my age, I kinda understand what that means. Many up in years turn into crusty old fuckers, miserly and mean. No wonder here because everything is so ass-backwards. In America there’s a culture of perpetual youth, the reality of death, in the mainstream anyway, kept out of the public eye, and not much reverence for old age.
I sincerely hope and even have confidence in the freshness, natural curiosity and daring of youth, in youth’s hearty goodwill and ability still to imagine for the common good. I also have this deep longing for the emergence and embodiment of the wise old man, and wise old woman archetype. I wish I saw and felt more of it in our leaders.
Barack Obama is 55 years old. Hillary Clinton is 69 years old. Bernie Sanders is 75 years old. Donald Trump is 70 years old. This has turned into a little contemplation on age and the virtues and vices of each stage of life.
It brings to mind Francis Bacon’s marvelous short essay (I love these essays and how they’re written. When I was younger I used to carry a copy around with me in my deep coat pocket):
XLII. Of Youth and Age. Essays, Civil and Moral. (d.1597)
A MAN that is young in years may be old in hours, if he have lost no time. But that happeneth rarely. Generally, youth is like the first cogitations, not so wise as the second. For there is a youth in thoughts, as well as in ages. And yet the invention of young men is more lively than that of old; and imaginations stream into their minds better, and as it were more divinely. Natures that have much heat and great and violent desires and perturbations are not ripe for action till they have passed the meridian of their years; as it was with Julius Cæsar and Septimius Severus. Of the latter of whom it is said, Juventutem egit erroribus, imo furoribus, plenam [He passed a youth full of errors, yea of madnesses]. And yet he was the ablest emperor, almost, of all the list. But reposed natures may do well in youth. As it is seen in Augustus Cæsar, Cosmus Duke of Florence, Gaston de Foix, and others. On the other side, heat and vivacity in age is an excellent composition for business. Young men are fitter to invent than to judge; fitter for execution than for counsel; and fitter for new projects than for settled business. For the experience of age, in things that fall within the compass of it, directeth them; but in new things, abuseth them. The errors of young men are the ruin of business; but the errors of aged men amount but to this, that more might have been done, or sooner. Young men, in the conduct and manage of actions, embrace more than they can hold; stir more than they can quiet; fly to the end, without consideration of the means and degrees; pursue some few principles which they have chanced upon absurdly; care not to innovate, which draws unknown inconveniences; use extreme remedies at first; and that which doubleth all errors will not acknowledge or retract them; like an unready horse, that will neither stop nor turn. Men of age object too much, consult too long, adventure too little, repent too soon, and seldom drive business home to the full period, but content themselves with a mediocrity of success. Certainly it is good to compound employments of both; for that will be good for the present, because the virtues of either age may correct the defects of both; and good for succession, that young men may be learners, while men in age are actors; and, lastly, good for extern accidents, because authority followeth old men, and favor and popularity youth. But for the moral part, perhaps youth will have the pre-eminence, as age hath for the politic. A certain rabbin, upon the text, Your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams, inferreth that young men are admitted nearer to God than old, because vision is a clearer revelation than a dream. And certainly, the more a man drinketh of the world, the more it intoxicateth; and age doth profit rather in the powers of understanding, than in the virtues of the will and affections. There be some have an over-early ripeness in their years, which fadeth betimes. These are, first, such as have brittle wits, the edge whereof is soon turned; such as was Hermogenes the rhetorician, whose books are exceeding subtle; who afterwards waxed stupid. A second sort is of those that have some natural dispositions which have better grace in youth than in age; such as is a fluent and luxuriant speech; which becomes youth well, but not age: so Tully saith of Hortensius, Idem manebat, neque idem decebat [He continued the same, when the same was not becoming]. The third is of such as take too high a strain at the first, and are magnanimous more than tract of years can uphold. As was Scipio Africanus, of whom Livy saith in effect, Ultima primis cedebant [His last actions were not equal to his first].