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Published July 29, 2011, 12:00 AM

Val Farmer: Great wordsmiths offer perspectives on aging

Growing old is an attitude.

By: Val Farmer, INFORUM

Growing old is an attitude.

“Some men never seem to grow old. Always active in thought, always ready to adopt new ideas ... Satisfied yet ever dissatisfied, settled, yet ever unsettled, they always enjoy the best of what is, and are the first to find the best of what will be.” – Shakespeare

“It is not by the gray of the hair that one knows the age of the heart.” – Bulwer

“You are as young as your faith, and as old as your doubts; as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fears, as young as your hope, and old as your despair.” – Zoroaster

“There cannot be a more unhappy creature than an ill-tempered old man, who is neither capable of receiving pleasures, nor sensible of conferring them on others. – Sir W. Temple

There is something left to do.

“Whatever poet, orator, or sage

May say of it, old age is still old age.

It is the waning, not the crescent moon;

The dusk of evening, not the blaze of noon;

It is not strength, but weakness; not desire,

But its surcease, not the fierce beat of fire,

The burning and consuming element,

But that of ashes and embers spent,

In which some living sparks we still discern,

Enough to warm, but not enough to burn,

What then? Shall we sit idly and say

The night hath come; it is no longer day?

The night hath not yet come; we are not quite

Cut off from labor by the failing light;

Something remains for us to do or dare;

Even the oldest tree some fruit may bear; ...

For age is opportunity no less

Than youth itself, though in another dress,

And as the evening twilight fades away

The sky is filled with stars, invisible by day.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dryrot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me a magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.” – Jack London

“It is too late! Ah, nothing is too late

Till the tired heart shall cease to palpitate.

Cato learned Greek of 80; Sophocles

Wrote his grand Oedipus, and Simonides

Bore off the prize of verse from his compeers,

When each had numbered more than four-score years.

Chaucer, at Woodstock with the nightingales,

At 60 wrote the Canterbury Tales;

Goethe at Weimar, toiling to the last,

Completed Faust when 80 years were past.

These are indeed exceptions, but they show

How am the gulf-stream of our youth may flow

Into the Arctic regions of our lives.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Age brings perspective.

“No wise man ever wished to be younger.” – Swift

“Let me grow lovely, growing old

So many fine things do;

Laces, and ivory, and gold,

And silks need not be new.

And here is healing in old trees,

Old streets a glamour hold;

Why may not I, as well as these,

Grow lovely, growing old?”

– Ruth Wilson Baker

“To say that youth is happier than maturity is like saying that the view from the bottom is better than the view from the top. As we ascend, the range of our view widens immensely; the horizon is pushed farther away. Finally, as we reach the summit, it is as if we had the world at our feet.” – William Lyon Phelps

“Age is the top of the mountain high;

Rarer the air, and blue.

A long hard climb, a bit of fatigue;

But oh! What a wonderful view!” – Author unknown

“Grow old with me!

The best is yet to be,

The last of life, for which the first was made:

Our times are in His hand

Who saith, ‘A whole I planned,

Youth shows but half, trust God, see all, nor be afraid’ ”

– Robert Browning


Val Farmer is a clinical psychologist specializing in family business consultation and mediation with farm families. He lives in Wildwood, Mo., and can be contacted through his website, www.valfarmer.com.

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