Dylan Thomas

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Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night, that old Dylan Thomas poem, is a favorite of many mature adults, including me.

Do not go gentle into that good night
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…

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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.

Dylan ThomasDo not go gentle into that good night
Old age should burn and rage at close of day
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

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. 

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She was a friend.  Other people sometimes live their entire lives in one place and keep friends for life, but she was more distant, clinging to me loosely, trying to live off free advice.  Like almost all the friends I have in one particular region, she was a therapist. Not a bad thing to be, and I believe her to be a competent therapist. But she had the same problem most people in my age group have.  She wanted help fighting it.

I suppose the name for it these days is “cognitive loss for age.”  Not Alzheimer’s, that “presenile”  (the earliest cases described by Kraepelin himself was in mid-fifties) dementia, but getting older.

Mainstream medicine comes up with names and categories and prescriptions, that may or may not offer significant clinical improvement. The human spirit comes up with, well, at least a little good anger. If there is one piece of poetry I quote more than any other, it is Dylan Thomas “Do not go gentle into that good night/Rage, rage, against the dying of the light.” Of course this brilliant Welsh poet, the way I heard it, died of alcohol poisoning in New York; not exactly how I plan to rage against the dying of my light. Oh, how many people who have tried to feed me alcohol I have told I cannot afford to lose any brain cells by that method.  I need everything I have to continue to live by my wits. Read more on Advice From A Poet About Memory Loss…

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