Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Michael Foley on middle age.

Passages stolen from 'The age of absurdity - Why modern life makes it hard to be happy".  I usually avoid books on happiness but this is a surprisingly interesting book.  Recommended.

"Not only is there little time left, but what remains is no longer content merely to pass and actually begins to accelerate.  Or, to be more precise, there is a disturbing double effect - time in the short term appears to drag while in the long term it appears to speed up.  The psychological explanation is that [....] youth is packed with vivid events, or events more vividly experienced because they are fresh, a series of times including that first time; the common feeling of the desultory middle years is that nothing at all is happening.  So time in the middle years seem to pass more quickly. This also explains why, although it is difficult to remember what happened yesterday, memories of youth remain startling vivid."

"There is the awareness of change and physical decline, of personal impotence and insignificance, of a world growing ever more indifferent, demanding and ruthless while one's own strength and energy diminish.  There is the loss of faith that brings the feeling of being a charlatan, an old fraud.  And there is the certainty of death and of being swiftly forgotten as though one had never existed. But perhaps most significant is the death of potential,  the failure of imminence. We live in constant expectation, believing always that something will turn up, some invitation or opportunity, and that the we will step forward to seize our destiny and become at last our true selves.  But the middle years bring the sickening realization that nothing is going to turn up.  There will be no magical deliverance.  This is indeed all it is.  Worse still, this meagre all-it-is will actually diminish. "

"The reward is that everything brightens up afterwards. [...] There is less need to be like everyone else, as well as less need to be liked and less need to like - and so less compulsion to be accommodating. One of the great glories of later life is contrariness [...] . On the other hand, mindfulness, attention and learning new skills do appear to extend life, as well as improving it's quality.  So the tendency of age to shy away from the new and difficult may literally be fatal. "

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