As a woman who just turned 91, I know full well that the subject of aging torments women and men all over the world. I see what Eli Siegel writes in “Declaration about Old Age” as crucial for my life, and I want all people to know this essay. Here’s how it begins:
Aesthetic Realism sees old age as like all other ages. The desire of a person of eighty to like himself and the world is as keen as it was when that person was eight, or eighteen, or twenty-eight.
Another thing that should be said is that reality is always new; and the greatest misfortune of any person, whoever he may be or however old he may be, is not to see reality as tremendously new, subtly surprising, and dazzlingly novel. It is easy to be bored at any age; and being bored is one of the subtler forms of conceit. The statement made by Miranda in The Tempest is still true, and should get a storm (if not a tempest) of approval.
Aesthetic Realism sees everyone as not sufficiently interested in reality. The fight between interest in oneself and interest in reality has, so far, not been waged so beautifully. Self, quite clearly, is a more immediate interest and therefore wins out, and has won out. How much a person could keep away from some of the noteworthy terrors of old age if that person were told at the age of two that his biggest desire was to like the world, is a question students of Aesthetic Realism are very much interested in.
A child of two wants to like the world, whether he gets a present from an uncle, finds something wonderful in the way of candy, or has a pussycat more than usually nice to him. Still, one can go all through life and not be able to say, “There’s the world everywhere around me; here am I, and I want to see what is around me—that is, the world—in the best way I can, and to like it as much as possible.” It is Aesthetic Realism which says, the more you are conscious that you want to like the world, the more at ease you’ll be. To be conscious of wanting to like the world is a wonderful way of pleasing the unconscious.…>>Read more