12 Nov How to Stay Young & Youthful | Inspirational Podcasts
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Today’s podcast has been edited and adapted from “The Road to Seventy Years Young or The Unhabitual Way” by Emily Bishop, published in 1916.
The man or woman, who daily lives up to the habit of the unhabitual, will never become dull, uninteresting, prejudiced — nor as old, in any sense, as they otherwise might be. There is an everlasting struggle in every mind between the tendency to keep unchanged, and the tendency to renovate, its ideas.
To wage warfare against this tendency to keep not only our ideas unchanged, but our physical actions, our associations, and to ally ourselves enthusiastically with the new and unexpected, is to take the safest road across the intervening years from Now to Then — to the future kingdom of “Seventy Years Young.”
At his seventieth birthday party, Mark Twain explained how he had (quote) “beaten the doctor and the hangman for seventy years.” He said: “Since forty I have been regular about going to bed and getting up — that is one of the main things. I have made it a rule to go to bed when there was no one left to sit up with; and I have made it a rule to get up when I had to. That has resulted in an unswerving regularity of irregularity.”
“Unswerving regularity of irregularity” are only other words for the habit of the unhabitual. What a swing of the pendulum is Mark Twain’s doctrine from that of Poor Richard’s Almanac! “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise,” said Benjamin Franklin.
However, farmers are “early to bed and early to rise” people, yet they are not (as a class) wealthy, especially healthy — or long lived — nor are they noted for their exceptional wisdom. Proverb and platitudes that sound well but do not prove well in reality, make for the habitual, for oldness.
Many people become victims of the habitual through subservience to artificial, conventional codes. Their ideal is always to dress, act, and speak in strict accordance with some societal standard. To live according to such an ideal — if ideal it may be called — results in the sacrifice of individuality, of simple sincerity of expression, and of youthful spontaneity.
Customs tyrannize persons of average endowments, but much less so those of great natures. Perhaps that is one reason why they are great. Life with them is less a calculation of petty social and politic accounts than it is with others. They are more nobly spontaneous and true. They are, and do not have to seem to be.
Conformity to convention means to be calm, to repress, to inhibit, to be formal in manner. It means to dissemble, to affect an indifference and immobility that is known as the (quote) “correct thing.” In time, pretense becomes habit. Then it is no longer pretense, it is the person. He or she is as old, as set, as unresponsive, in mind and body as their lifeless habits. Thus do they blindly make the doom they dread — premature old age.
“Sow a thought, reap an act; Sow an act, reap a habit; Sow a habit, reap a destiny.” Dreading decrepitude, infirmity, senility, we hasten their advance by this “thought-act-habit-destiny” process. William James says that it is the old fogyism element that tends to keep ideas unchanged. This old fogyism tendency, which according to his estimate begins to gain mastery over the majority of people by the time they are twenty-five years old, resents the new — the new fact, the new idea, the new methods — while genius, in truth, means little more than the faculty of perceiving things in unhabitual, unexpected ways.
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