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Thoughts on Aging

Update: my father’s lung infection is gone now and we expect him home on Monday. Which has prompted me to be thinking about aging (I’m 52 and that is old enough to not be as young as I once was either). These thoughts started with the lines from Dylan Thomas, below, going ’round in my head.



The Welsh poet Dylan Thomas told his father,

Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.



Rage as an Affirmation of Life
Robert Hughes, and expatriate Australian, was involved in a traffic accident due to a drunk driver. He nearly died and tells us that he saw death (a bank clerk behind a desk whose mouth widened and was about to swallow him), at which point he felt this incredible upwelling of rage – that he would not die.

Perhaps fortunately most of us don’t experience this kind of primal rage often, if at all. We are familiar with rage as destructive but we don’t hear so much about it as a fundamental affirmation. To fight and not surrender even when we know we will die is a possibility that is open to us – and that can be a positive one (though it may not be).



Rage and Clinging
But it was Dylan making this statement not his father. From the tone I guess that Dylan’s father was more resigned or accepting to his death than Dylan wanted him to be. The rage is, at least partly, Dylan’s.

Dylan is clinging on to his father – he doesn’t want him to resign or accept but to fight.

I have had the opportunity of being around many old people in the last few years (mostly my parents’ friends – my parents are 87). Few of them rage at dying. Some are clinging on to past youth – sad that they can’t do what they once could. Others are impatient for their life to be over. The most poignant example of this came, not from a friend of my parents, but when I was working in a nursing home. One of the nurses I worked with was told by a patient,

I spent all night practising letting go – and then they come and give me pills.

Rage is an active engagement with what is going on. Clinging is attempting to hold on to what is past.
Clinging is understandable and may evoke compassion in us – but it is a sad business. And hopeless – even if noble. What we have done is permanent (it can’t be undone) and gone for good.



Memory and Identity
When we know that we will die soon and we have had a long life, it is natural to remember and reminisce. This too is an active engagement with our life. And may be an enjoyable pastime with others as well. Re-telling a familiar story can be a pleasure (and Hollywood and publishers profit handsomely from doing it).

What is sad is when we can’t be who we are – when we can only mourn that we are not who we once were. Old age is not the same as youth. Its pleasures and difficulties are different.

Old age asks us to develop our identity – to not cling on to an old one.

In our materialistic culture, obsessed with youthful looks and valuing people by what they can achieve, this is not easy to do. We are not encouraged to graciously accommodate our limitations – we are encouraged to fight and transcend them. Perhaps because, perhaps like Dylan, we don’t want to know that our loved ones will die – are dying.



But if we can have a sense of transience then we can also have a sense of the preciousness of life. This moment with a loved one can be treasured, this project we are working on can be worthwhile, we can have a sense of what we value. Hades, the Greek god of the underworld, was called the good counsellor – in light of death we can get a sense of proportion and what matters.
This leads to statements like,

“Who ever died wishing they had spend more time at the office?”.


Accept the Guidance of Your Aging
This is a common visualisation – but one worth doing.
Imagine you are sitting in a rocking chair surrounded by your grandchildren or young people. Imagine that you are speaking to them in an easy way, and that they are happy to sit and listen.

  • What would you like to tell them of your life?
  • What would you tell them that you value?
  • What would you tell them to value?
  • What instructions or advice would you give them?

Can you do one small thing to follow your own advice or instructions? (if you aren’t already).


If you would like to share the advice you give in the comments I would love to hear it, Evan.




To find out how to live authentically you can download my manifesto.

It has exercises that will help you experience what authenticity means for you and so experience a more satisfying life.

If you would like me to write about some aspect of living an authentic life please don’t hesitate to get in touch.  There is a box in the sidebar where you can leave this anonymously if you wish.


I'm Evan Hadkins. To find out how to live a more satisfying life you can download my manifesto on living authentically. It is a book of exercises to guide you to finding, nourishing and living from the core of who you are.

If you would like me to write about some aspect of living an authentic life please don't hesitate to get in touch. There is a box in the sidebar where you can leave a question anonymously if you wish, or you can email me, use the contact page, or comment on this post.

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{ 10 comments… add one }
  • Kathy Ver Eecke 2012/02/25, 9:37 am

    Was just lamenting the sad shape of my aging face when I saw your post title. Thought, oh Evan has the answers.
    Of course, your post is philosophical and enlightening….and has nothing to do with botox. Thanks for that.
    Have put the Dylan Thomas quote above my computer.
    Nice post Evan.
    Kathy Ver Eecke recently posted..Students – Why You Must Drop Out Now to Get a Job LaterMy Profile

  • Evan 2012/02/25, 9:49 am

    Thanks Kathy

  • Hiten 2012/02/25, 11:13 am

    Hi Evan,

    I’m glad to hear your dad is better.

    I’m in my 30’s now, and have been experiencing something similar with regards to my hair starting to grow grey. At times I find myself clinging to when I was younger and all my hair was black. When I do, I quickly remind myself that I’m just changing, and have been doing so since I was born. Hence, I’m only seeing nature in action.

  • Harriet 2012/02/25, 12:12 pm

    We are about the same age. My father passed away at 62, and my mom is alive and kicking at 75. I don’t remember my mother ever expressing any anxiety about aging – she just seems to enjoy life at every moment. My father was ill his whole life, and had a terrible fear of dying, but would never talk about it. As a sensitive child, I picked up on it and his anxiety imprinted itself onto me.

    I have never thought that I would live a long life. I’ve done everything that I’ve wanted to do, so if a sudden accident takes my life tomorrow I would be ok with that. As a matter of fact a couple of years ago I thought it would be a good idea to take my own life rather than wait for fate to decide when would be a good time.

    When my children were young I had terrible health and death anxiety, and I wasted so much time with those worries. This anxiety actually started when I was a young child, but I never expressed my fears so I suppose the anxiety just got worse and worse. It’s ironic that I was more afraid of dying when I was young and healthy than now, as I get older and am more prone to disease.

    What I do fear now is having a prolonged illness that would prevent me from leading my normal life. I would rather die than be sick like that. I’ve already made up my mind about how I will handle certain things that I think might happen to me in the next 5 to 10 years. Of course, I may feel totally differently about this when that time actually comes.

    I can’t see myself raging against death, but I do want some control over it.
    Harriet recently posted..Checking InMy Profile

  • Evan 2012/02/25, 6:11 pm

    Hi Harriet, like you I want control over my life, and death. Thanks for such an honest and personal comment.

  • Evan 2012/02/25, 6:12 pm

    That seems like a great response Hiten. Thanks foe your comment.

  • Chahal@Broadband Forum 2012/02/27, 5:48 pm

    Hi Evan,
    It’s great to know that your father is normal now. I dug through some of your older post as I thought they were very helpful. Your blog is simply awe sum.
    Chahal@Broadband Forum recently posted..Personal MessagesMy Profile

  • Evan 2012/02/27, 8:30 pm

    Hi Chahal, thanks for your thoughts about my father. And it is great to hear that you have found stuff that is useful for you here. Many thanks for letting me know, Evan.

  • Cheerful Monk 2012/02/29, 4:44 pm

    I just got over a debilitating bug that lasted about five weeks. I treated it as if it might be the new normal. No rage, just doing the best I could with what I had left…I’m not a big one for fighting life. I learned a lot and found plenty of ways of living deeply.

    I’m 72, so I’ve already had plenty of practice letting go and moving on.
    Cheerful Monk recently posted..Learning from DogsMy Profile

  • Evan 2012/02/29, 5:13 pm

    Hi Monk, good to hear you’re over the bug. I’m not a big one for fighting life either usually. Sometimes I do know rage.

    I’m glad you are moving on to a healthier place, thanks for your comment.

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