Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Defeatism by the great Lev Levinson

”Old Age is a defeatism that overcomes cowardly and weak people.” - Nikos Kazantzakis (1883-1957) Greek writer

I read this line in the 1970s and thought it sounded completely accurate, although I had no idea of what old age would entail.  I swore never to succumb to defeatism when I became elderly, but was blissfully unaware of what horrors lay ahead.

Now I’m elderly (79) and realize it’s more complicated that one-liners from legendary Greek writers.  Because health issues invariably accompany the aging process, and I regret to inform you that positive thinking cannot overcome cancer, heart attacks, arthritis, etc. in the real world.  Illness comes to elderly people regardless of how positively or courageously they might think.  No one gets out of this world alive no matter how enlightened they might be, or how much quinoa and chia they might consume, or how much yoga they do, or what high-minded delusions we might base out lives upon.

But actually, if the truth be told, Kazantzakis wasn’t completely wrong.  Because sometimes elderly people get depressed and surrender long before it’s necessary to check out, kick the bucket, or whatever you want to call it.  The sad truth is that some unfortunate elderly folks have no interests except wallowing in their misery.  I knew a woman who wouldn’t even watch TV.  She just sat, stared into space, felt sad, and prayed to die.  Then one day her prayers were answered.

We elderly people don’t have the stamina we had back in the day, and certain aches and pains cannot be avoided, but that doesn’t mean we still can’t enjoy many of life’s pleasures such as good food and drink, stimulating conversation, spectator sports, and all the arts.  Many of us even can walk, do calisthenics, and bop around at rock concerts.  And some of us are fortunate enough to fall in love again, although it might be imaginary love affairs with movie stars such as Catherine Zeta-Jones.

So ultimately I think Kazantsakis was right.  The defeatism of old age is a state of mind, a point of view, an opinion or a weakness, really, that undermines whatever lingering happiness is available to fogies and geezers.  Avoid that defeatism by all means if you can.


Unknown said...

I also believe that you're only as old as your thinking ... and thinking can be altered or upgraded at any time -- J.J. Lamb

michael said...

It's the aches and pains that mostly stop you thinking as an invincible young un.

Anonymous said...

I'm not on either side in this because I think old age and its debilities can lead us to do things in a different way, appropriate to our limitations and also appropriate to the beautiful insights garnered over a lifetime. Old people can do powerful and piercing things, and make good use of our limitations. A desperate disease removed much of my cognitive ability, so I am writing and thinking without words, and will be revamping a novel on my 80th birthday. It will deal intuitively with feeling and ditch all the damned adjectives and adverbs and some verbs too. We literary types are all quacking ducks.

Dan said...

I'm just a kid here (turned 65 last month)but I keep my mind active by writing and I hunt tigers every morning before going into work.

So far I haven't found any.