Sunday, January 08, 2012

Cicero (106-43BC):  On Old Age.

This was written when Cicero was 62, although he is using another person, Cato, as his spokesman who is supposedly 84.   There is something that I enjoy as I get older which is quite eloquently spoken of here:

"But I have known many of them who never said a word of complaint against old age; for they were only too glad to be freed from the bondage of passion, and were not at all looked down upon by their friends. The fact is that the blame for all complaints of that kind is to be charged to character, not to a particular time of life. For old men who are reasonable and neither cross-grained nor churlish find old age tolerable enough: whereas unreason and churlishness cause uneasiness at every time of life." - On Old Age

I find that less agitates me as I grow older for which I am quite thankful.   Some people look with despair on old age as a time when there is nothing to do.  My hope is to be able to be more mentally and physically active as the demands on my time become less.  To this Cicero writes through the mouth of Cato:

"We see Solon, for instance, boasting in his poems that he grows old “daily learning something new.” Or again in my own case, it was only when an old man that I became acquainted with Greek literature, which in fact I absorbed with such avidity—in my yearning to quench, as it were, a long-continued thirst—that I became acquainted with the very facts which you see me now using as precedents. When I heard what Socrates had done about the lyre I should have liked for my part to have done that too, for the ancients used to learn the lyre, but, at any rate, I worked hard at literature."

This was written about the same time Cicero gave his Philippics against Mark Anthony that eventually got him killed.  I wonder if he wasn't deliberately trying to go out with a bang.  Cicero also wrote On The Nature Of The Gods which I have read.  It has different characters arguing for different philosophical viewpoints.  My initial view was that he was a Stoic, while others claimed that he founded the Latin skeptics.  To this I will add some of the finishing thoughts of Cicero on the immortality of the soul, and that the belief in the soul's immortality is a factor in how men behave:

"Do you suppose—to take an old man’s privilege of a little self-praise—that I should have been likely to undertake such heavy labours by day and night, at home and abroad, if I had been destined to have the same limit to my glory as to my life? Had it not been much better to pass an age of ease and repose without any labour or exertion? But my soul, I know not how, refusing to be kept down, ever fixed its eyes upon future ages, as though from a conviction that it would begin to live only when it had left the body. But had it not been the case that souls were immortal, it would not have been the souls of all the best men that made the greatest efforts after an immortality of fame."


Delirious said...

I really have never thought much about my old age until just this past year or so. I have to admit that when I feel the kinks and aches of old age coming on, I worry! I've spent a lot of time with the elderly, and I can forsee a lot of problems. I'm not afraid of death, but I am worried about what I might have to go through to get there!

Rummuser said...

Looney you have a long way to go to understand old age. Ask me!

Cicero's time did not have viagra! If they had had, perhaps he would have said different things about old people.

Dee Ice Hole said...

Old age is not for sissies.

Max Coutinho said...

Hi Looney,

I agree: growing older can be a blessing, specially if/when wisdom takes a comfortable seat in our mind and being.
Those who have issues with growing older are people who never felt at ease with themselves, their skin, to begin with.

All a person should ask for, as getting older, is to be as physically and mentally sane as possible (in order to be able to maintain a certain level of independence). Dependency, lack of ability to move or think, is what concerns me the most about old age; and that is why I started exercising and leading a healthy life since my early 20's: we must always think about the future.

Knowing that the soul is immortal should calm our fears about old age and death, but somehow (for most people) it doesn't.

Excellent theme!


Looney said...

@All, I must say that the variety of comments here is as interesting as the original work!

@Rummuser, any chance you were reincarnated from Cicero? You also have me wondering if the Viagra commercials are as common in India as they are here ...

Rummuser said...

No dear Looney, we do not have those ads here. Our geriatric establishment will suffer strokes and pass away if they see any!

Why not? I could well be Cicero Mark II!