The Benefits of Growing Older | Aging Gracefully | Podcast

Podcast Transcript: Welcome to the Inspirational Living podcast, brought to you in part by Book of Zen, makers of wearable inspiration for a better world. Today’s podcast has been edited and adapted from Essays of an Optimist by John William Kaye, published in 1870.

I AM growing old. And according to all received opinions, I ought not to like it at all. I ought to feel very sad and serious over my lost youth. It is certain that it will never come back again. Once gone, it is gone forever. I know that “Nothing can bring back the hour Of glory to the grass, of splendor to the flower.”

The verdant, grassy, flowery state has lapsed into the great limbo of the Past. It has become a reminiscence. Am I therefore to bewail it? Or is it wiser to accept the situation? The answer of course is: Accept it! And more than that — accept and be grateful for it, throwing up my thanks in full faith that if the glory and the splendor have departed, new glories and new splendors have taken their place.

It is a very pleasant thought that Life is made up of compensations. All Nature teaches this one grand lesson. There is seed-time, and there is summer. There is harvest, and there is winter. When autumn comes upon us — when the roses have long since gone, and the leaves on the trees are yellow and falling — are we to regret that it is no longer summer and that the greenery has departed?

Have not the rich tints of the autumnal foliage peculiar beauties of their own? As time takes away, so it gives; as it empties, so it replenishes. There is a process of restoration and compensation ever at work in the physical world; and is it not so also in the spiritual?

And yet, I am afraid that there are some whose nature it is rather to deplore what they have lost, than to rejoice in what they have gained. They say that “the beautiful has vanished, and returns not” instead of believing in the great truth that it is continually recreating and renewing itself.

One of the great advantages of age is that we are not wont to disturb ourselves by doing things that we do not like, simply for the look of the thing. There is absolute misery in pretentiousness of all kinds, and youth is infinitely more pretentious than age. There are some people who never outlive their vanity; but, as a general rule, it may be maintained that the longer we live, the less we care what others think of us, and the less we strive after effect.

We learn, in time, how little we can ever know, and how ridiculous we make ourselves by pretending to know everything. When we have learned to say, “I am as ignorant as a child on this or that subject” or, “as powerless as a baby to do this or that thing,” we have mastered one of the great difficulties of life; we have entered upon a new stage of our career.

There is no need, on the other hand, of any great parade of humility. You are a man or woman. Be thankful for it. It is no humiliation that you are not a god. If your neighbor knows what you do not know, and can do what you cannot do, the chances are that you know and can do some things which are out of the circle of your neighbor’s potentiality. Be content, then. Turn what you know and what you can do to the best possible account; and be neither elated because you know so much, nor depressed because you know so little…..

Read The Entire Essay in Evergreen: 50 Inspirational Life Lessons

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