In a recently read article, the author had the disturbing temerity to state: “Man’s attainment of old age can be thought of as the transition to a different person, time sharing the same identity.” The not-so-subtle suggestion of the author would appear to be that man in his later years, is a mere semblance of his former self. Assuming the continued presence of a reasonably healthy body and mind, we could not possibly disagree more. With reference to the latter proviso, younger people likewise, have the potential for a good life, but only if they are fortunate enough to have reasonably good health.
While, admittedly, multiple decades of life, naturally resulting in physical wear and tear, more often than not, are somewhat productive of uncomfortable aches and pains, such phenomena, in the rational scope of things, do not substantively detract from essential happiness nor sustained persona. In fact, the presence of accumulated wisdom and acquired mature perception of those who have led full and appropriately enriching lives is empirically productive of positive feelings of continued happiness and self-fulfillment. The attainment of old age is decidedly not the presentation of pathological disease.
It requires little argument to maintain that the appropriate perch of homo sapiens at the apex of the evolutionary tree exists, essentially, by reason of natural evolution’s generous gift to him of a singularly advanced brain; the same furnishing the innate capacity for experiential learning [ Sir John Locke], advancement and, ultimately, the prized goal of wisdom. The abundance of animals, situated lower on the tree, exhibit a plethora of fauna, physically stronger, more possessed of endurance, quicker and more agile, with senses such as sight and hearing, far superior to those of mankind. Nevertheless, inarguably, it is the advanced capacity for reason, as opposed to capabilities such as strength, speed, agility and advanced senses, that is the ultimate criterion for such extraordinary distinction.
Concededly, the younger man is physically stronger, faster and possessed of greater endurance than the elder. Nevertheless, as stated, the universally accepted anthropological criterion for superiority of the species is determined by its capacity to learn from experience and its advancement toward the goal of wisdom. Accordingly, can it then be correctly observed, logically and empirically, as in the quoted statement, that a person who has pursued knowledge longer, is less valuable or worse, and merely a familiar reminder of his younger persona?
In time, the criteria maintained by [especially the younger members of] popular society, of physical prowess, stature, and youthful appearance, morph by subsequent life experience, into the more developmentally mature and societally significant elements of personal development, and achievement. These features, notably unrelated to physical prowess, are at some point in life, universally recognized to be of true existential importance.
Accordingly, we see the experientially wise elder citizen as homo sapiens at his destined stage of fruition. Those who have, in the course of their life, invested elective time in the independent pursuit of personal interests, supplemental to their responsibilities as a responsible family member and a productive, working citizen, have been best situated to acquire the goals of growth, insight, mature perception and experiential wisdom. The elder, physically challenged, slower paced and occasionally achy, members of society, who, nevertheless, are possessed of decades of valuable experience and wise exercise of reason, indeed, may be mankind at its naturally intended (evolutionary) fruition.
To any reader who would be inclined to solely ascribe the motive of this writing to personal self-interest, we would respond that it is based upon contemplative knowledge available, only with sufficient time.
-p. * [see early essay, “IS IT SOUP YET?”]