How old is old?


Many scholars and teachers older and wiser than we are have undertaken to describe in detail their theories of the stages of life. We have read them with interest but still think it comes down to three basic aspects of a human life. There is a beginning period when we are young and weak and pretty ignorant. We have a great many things to learn very fast. They run all the way from care of the body, recognition of the natural drives of hunger, sex, self-preservation, to the more subtle ones of desire for knowledge, power, love, and even something more: beauty, truth, goodness, or eternity itself. There is a second stage when, more or less well prepared, we are pushed or dragged into the stage of life where we have to put to work such knowledge, powers, and concerns as we have in various social forms like families, churches, academies, governments, and numerous other human associations. We have to create and raise a family, practice a profession, function as citizens, create whatever works of usefulness and beauty we can, and contribute something of value to the general good of society and the advancement of human knowledge and decency. The demands and excitements of this stage of life, the comings and goings, the successes and failures, the wild pursuits and struggles to escape are so varied and many that we hardly have time to think of anything else or get anything into a broader perspective. "The tides of life are flowing," as the hymn says, "fresh, manifold, and free." Then, at flood tide, the movement begins to change. Watching it dally, because we live beside a tidal cove, one can see the water reach its height and begin to ebb, not fast at first but perceptibly, until at length the bottom appears here and there with familiar rocks, promontories, and even an occasional island formerly hidden by the high tide. The ebbing is the season of age. Santayana said that the gradual losing of what we have been and are is death. And Emerson wrote:

DOI: 10.1007/BF01534012

Cite this paper

@article{Meserve1986HowOI, title={How old is old?}, author={Harry C. Meserve}, journal={Journal of Religion and Health}, year={1986}, volume={25}, pages={171-176} }