Sunday, July 17, 2022

To everything there is a season

Lance Morrow, thinking about President Biden's age. Morrow is 82. The President will be 80 this year.
For your eyes only, I have prepared a scouting report on conditions you will find when you cross over the mystic border of 80, into serious old age. ....

Think of old age in terms of The Pilgrim’s Progress. When John Bunyan wrote his tremendous allegory in the late 17th century, his full title was “The Pilgrim’s Progress From This World to That Which Is to Come, Delivered Under the Similitude of a Dream.” That’s not a bad description of life in one’s ninth decade, which at times seems to transpire “under the similitude of a dream” and most certainly looks like one’s gateway to the world which is to come. The doddering Pilgrim will wallow in the Slough of Despond, louse up his blood sugar while lunching in Vanity Fair, gasp up the Hills of Difficulty, suffer through the Valley of Humiliation, dream of the Delectable Mountains. Old age is like life, but more intense—and made weird by debilities. ....

It is well to remember that TR died at 60, thoroughly worn out. His cousin Franklin died at 63—wasted, spent. Lyndon B. Johnson, FDR’s onetime protégé, expired, exhausted, at 64. I remember that when Dwight Eisenhower, age 70, left the White House in 1961—riding down snowy Pennsylvania Avenue beside his successor, 43-year-old John F. Kennedy —he seemed the oldest man in the world. But of course we were all young that winter.

That moment, when power passed from Eisenhower to Kennedy and the 1950s yielded to the 1960s, marked the empowerment of a fallacy that is still at work in American culture—an existential error Bob Dylan, now 81, summed up in his 1973 anthem, “Forever Young.”

That was the germ of the fatal national neoteny—a word defined as the retention of juvenile features in an adult animal. Old age became yucky—an attitude that, decades later, seemed hilarious as it was discovered, the hard way, that no one can be (or should be) forever young. In fact, life has about it a seemly, inevitable flow, a progression from birth to childhood to youth to adulthood to middle age to old age, and finally to death, with rules and roles appropriate to each stage. It is good to be old. It is good to be young. It is right to be a child and right, when the time comes, to be a mother or father, and right, further down the road, to be a grandfather and, by and by, a corpse. To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven. Let’s leave it at that.
Lance Morrow, "The 80s Called. They’re on Their Way for You, Mr. President," Wall Street Journal, July 15, 2022.

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