Wednesday, May 7, 2008

A Smattering of Wisdom

May 7, 2008

I'm reading a book about how to face the fact that you're aging and how to make the most of it. I got it from the library a few weeks ago and am just finishing it up now.

The Art of Aging by Sherwin B. Nuland, M.D., is a much more pleasant book than it sounds. He provides anecdotes about some impressive people who are outright old, for example, Dr. Michael DeBakey, and who are still living productive and admirable lives. He has interviewed them and gotten some of their secrets, and he shares them with us as freely as they did with him. He tracked down the controversial Aubrey de Grey, the Brit who slaves tirelessly to find the science that will put an end to aging and increase mankind's lifespan to extreme degrees -- by centuries, in fact.

There is much in this book that I never heard of, but most of it is gently explained. Its purpose is to provide the impetus to examine our days carefully and to seek wisdom in all of our projects, making our age inconsequential in our ability to function.

Its final chapters -- which I am savoring slowly in hopes of prolonging the pleasure of reading this book, as well as hoping some of its mature attitude will actually rub off on me -- deal with wisdom itself.

Here's a paragraph or two to tickle your fancy:

"'Wisdom is the reward you get,'Mark Twain is reputed to have said, for once without tongue in cheek, 'for a lifetime of listening when you would rather have talked.' Though the unassailably perfect wise man does not exist, the continuum of wisdom is everywhere around us.

"The getting of wisdom is, of course, a process, and it has no end point. There is no recognizable peak on which the seeker may finally stand and say, 'Now I am wise.' The process is incomplete at any stage, and the outcome, like all good, is relative."

I hope you will read this book. It's out in paperback now, and I'm thinking of buying a dozen copies to give to everybody I can think of.


Elmer Gantry said...

If I recall correctly (always a safe qualification for me), didn't Nuland previously write "How We Die", or something like that?

I didn't read it but (seem) to remember interesting reviews.

Mary Lois said...

Right -- same guy. Something about that title put me off, however. I had a little trouble with The Art of Aging, too, but am so glad I gave it a try. Maybe I'm brave enough to read that other one now that I know the art of aging...

Bert Bananas said...

Knowing how to drop dead with charm is a lost art.