Sunday, June 5, 2022

Growing old

David Mamet, who is almost 75:
Robert Browning wrote, “Grow old along with me! / The best is yet to be, / The last of life, for which the first was made.”

All youth, reading the poem (“Rabbi Ben Ezra,” 1864), scoffed. But those of the old fortunate enough to nod in agreement are fortunate, indeed. ....

I name the great Bob Hoover, combat ace pilot, test pilot, airshow hero, recently deceased, among whose precepts we find: Fly it as far as you can into the crash.

We, the aged, in this bizarre, unfamiliar new world (of the young), may throw up our hands in incredulity at what are, after all, natural processes: age, human nature, the inevitable transformations of all society. But the pilot who throws up his hands in an emergency is, at that moment, dead (the airplane will not fly itself); he has another option, as Mr. Hoover taught. Will the end be the same? He can fly on and see.

As can the aged, and, so, in action or contemplation, accept the position of Elder. Even if it does not seem to be on offer. ....

Having reached maturity — our apogee, per choice, the magnificence of the moon landing or the horror of the Vietnam War — we may squander our energies in complaint about a vanished (and, indeed, misremembered) past, a pitfall of the conservatives; or insistence on an impossible future (our esteemed colleagues across the aisle). Or, like the wiser individual who’s been graced with a long life, thank God for the continued gift of life, and study to use our remaining energies honorably, leaving the young with the certainty that they will find age-appropriate uses and misuses for their time; and the hope that, as Mr. Hoover said, their knowledge will increase quicker than their reservoir of luck diminishes.

Is it possible that a country, our beloved country, can emerge intact from our various national hysterias? The embittered old would say, Of course not. Things have progressed beyond hope of reversal. But they are beyond hope only if we surrender hope; and the insidious beginning of surrender is incredulity.
David Mamet, "Bellhop Jokes: A Tour de l’Horizon (Look Around)," National Review, June 13, 2022.

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