Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night, that old Dylan Thomas poem, is a favorite of many mature adults, including me.
Rage, Rage against the dying of the light
Let’s face it — none of us is getting any younger. And as we age, we’ve got to choose – will we rage, or will we just go gently.
I remember someone who alleged they wanted to work with me telling me they were interested in working with an emeritus neuroscientist. He was a very sharp guy, at least as far as I could tell from his academic publications. He had been with the system a long time and published much. I had not, since I’ve never seemed to fit into that system any better than most other systems.
The project fizzled for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the news that his family was up in arms because this elderly gentleman had given the overwhelming bulk of his life savings to one of those delightful online scams.
I have not checked what the country of Nigeria is doing in terms of industry, but they seem to be leading the way when it comes to these scams. They promise tremendous amounts of money, starting with an email to a recipient that purports to be a personal email but which surely has been delivered in bulk. All the recipient has to do is advance a little money to get a lot. A greed factor then takes over, and the recipient advances more and more money in hopes of a big payoff — which does not seem to happen. Anyone who has not received at least one such email is probably not a big internet user, to say the least. I have received them in three languages, and I do almost all of my internet work in English.
It has been known for a long time that old folks are most often prey to the financially unscrupulous. Personally, I think that the isolationism and diminished social function that often come with aging play at least as much a part in this as neuroscience does. But for the moment, let’s assume that at least some of the problem is a loss of judgment that comes with age. Assessing individual financial capacities may be helpful — for families and guardians and stuff — but there is a delirious amount of variability here.
The typical American solution of let’s-make-more-rules may not be the way out.
At quite a young age, I saw my Grandfather-of-Blessed-Memory tell my mother that he had a daughter in Boston – even though she was standing right in front of him. He simply could not recognize her. As she stood there crying like a fountain, I knew I was in some kind of trouble.
Read more on No More Cognitive Loss for Age…
I don’t care if Dylan Thomas was drinking himself to death while that was being written. It is a sentiment close to my heart, and undoubtedly the stanza of poetry I quote most often.
I will not accept the allegedly inevitable “cognitive loss of age.”
I suppose my mother did me a service at age 10, when she dragged me fairly close to the oversized window of an oversized ladies room, and told me never to linger trying to make myself attractive, for it would be a waste of time. I was – in the opinion of my parents – destined for brains, not beauty.
Time lost in fixing my appearance would be noted sardonically by my father, and bother him, as we wasted his time.
But my strong suit was my brains, and even I agreed that I should work on them — working very hard in school — and that way I could win in life. I actually took my mother seriously, for a very long time. It was not until my late fifties that I started to be anywhere near a fashionable woman’s size, finding to my amazement that people found me attractive, and taking more notice myself than ever in my life.
But even now, I don’t give a damn if they call it “cognitive loss for age” or “dementia,” I want nothing of it.
Nothing at all.
On A Cat Aging
by Sir Alexander Gray
He blinks upon the hearth-rug
And yawns in deep content,
Accepting all the comforts
That Providence has sent.
Louder he purrs and louder,
In one glad hymn of praise
For all the night’s adventures,
For quiet, restful days.
Life will go on forever,
With all that cat can wish;
Warmth, and the glad procession
Of fish and milk and fish.
Only – the thought disturbs him -
He’s noticed once or twice,
That times are somehow breeding
A nimbler race of mice.
I loved Merlin – King Arthur’s court wizard — when I was a kid and that was just about the time that Disney came out with “The Sword in the Stone.”
WOW – nearly 50 years ago!
Later I was to love the Arthurian legend in many deep and symbolic ways — love it so much that for a long time I kept a light-up, plug-in sword which was (actually, fairly easily) removed from a plastic pseudo-crystalline rainbow light-shooting stone. Doing so didn’t make me a queen of anything, though.
It is almost impossible, I think, to be human and anything more than partially literate without knowing the splendor of the Arthurian legend.
Fast forward to the present, and I am a wizard in my own way – a doctor. I wanted every patient to have the smiling sense of the Arthurian splendor that I had when I pulled that ersatz sword from the ersatz stone. Most of them did, until that piece, like many dear to me, was lost in a series of moves.
I was looking at Paul Fink’s column in the April 2010 Clinical Psychiatry News, one of those newspaper format “journals” that we like to call “throwaway journals” because subscriptions are free and they summarize other journals, as they usually end up in the trash. He writes for other psychiatrists. It is possible to identify with him if you do this for a living and are sentient enough to know what is going on around you.
I always liked this guy. Older people have a lot to say when they have practiced long enough to see trends go up and down and know their fate.
If I remember correctly, he is the one who said a while ago something to the effect that psychiatry is like prostitution in that the amateurs think they know as much as the professionals. Nobody has better nailed the central difficulty of this job. Read more on Purpose and Aging…