With age, our bodies break down slowly but surely, losing first flexibility and then strength; we increasingly lack the energy and zest we once had; we come to appreciate how formative our early years were in shaping our own ultimate outcomes; and we start to take stock of all that we’ve accomplished because it’s increasingly the majority of what we will accomplish in our lifetimes.
So to take a modified page out of Tyler Cowen’s interview playbook: what’s overrated, underrated, and correctly rated about aging?
Starting with the softer pitches, what’s overrated in your author’s humble opinion? Possibly the serenity. Yes, Zen is in vogue as Eastern philosophies are wont to be in all decaying Empires since Ancient Rome and long before, with our own moment being no exception, but isn’t there something sweet, innocent, and joyful about the rollercoaster of youthful emotions? Isn’t there something lost when we clip the tails of a distribution, whether culturally or experientially? I leave this open to your consideration…
What feels correctly rated about getting older is the access and control over resources. If all goes well, we can build and buy what was only a twinkle in the eyes of our younger selves.iii This is a great priviledge to those afforded this opportunity, but it’s also the explicit carrot dangled before the hard-charging teens and twenty-somethings: exchange youthful energy for material resources later.iv Another correctly rated thing would be increasingly refined tastes, which on the one hand open doors to untold heights of sensory experience, but on the other hand make one even more fussy, pretentious, and difficult-to-please.
Now most challengingly, what’s underrated about being middle-aged or even older still? From the murky milieu of our patently ageist culture, this is not a straight-forward question, but that might also make it the most interesting, so here are a few possibilities:
- Better time management: instead of being distracted by a million shiny things, focus becomes easier and long-term goals become more readily crystallised.
- More appreciation for the value of family: those with strong family ties start to separate themselves from the pack at the years progress. There’s really no replacement for the solid foundation that love provides. Those who start new families are evermore grateful that they started when they did and not later. Those who miss their windows of opportunity (mostly) wallow in private regret and even shame for the rest of their years.
- Less concern with one’s own body image: a degree of body acceptance comes with age once gravity starts to take its hold. After all, there’s only so much that even the fittest athletes in the world can do to mitigate its effects so the rest of us come to accept a couple extra pounds around the middle as even slightly protective should we find ourselves sick or in hospital for extended periods. A little fat can mean quite a lot for insurance purposes. A couple more wrinkles and a few grey hairs also become badges of honour for many. Although there are many botoxists, hair colourists, and make-up artists who would be unemployed if nobody of advanced age cared about their own appearances, but even those who go to significant trouble to alter their appearances subconsciously move the goalposts of “attractive” as they age. It’s inevitable.v
- Justified self-confidence: rather than just the unbridled confidence of youth, which stems moreso from the insecurity of being an imposter, the confidence that comes with age is based on experience and wisdom of having tried and failed in the past. Remember, you either win or you learn! And no one wins every time.
- Humility: related to the previous point but deserving of its own mention, recognising one’s limitations as well as the limitations of human knowledge more broadly, are powerful tools for assessing the landscape of this crazily complex world. Like, who are we to say that former Japanese PM Shinzo Abe (RIP) wasn’t part of some secret society? Even if our internet worked,vi we couldn’t actually know for sure! Indeed, knowing the past or even the present is practically as difficult as knowing the future. Also, as we start to experience the increasingly frequent deaths of those nearest and dearest to us, we have little choice but to find faith in higher powers, which requires a very real sense of humility and admittance of our frailties.
At least that’s the salient perspective of this hairy, old, reflective-mooded yid; one just on the back of a birthday that places him closer to 40 than 30… After two missed birthday parties and no real hosted events in nearly three years, I can’t help but be grateful that the clouds parted and the sun shone down last weekend so I could throw a proper backyard birthday bash complete with face painters, balloon artists, family and friends of all ages, and with whom we would work through thirty bottles of good champagne in an evening.vii Chenqui.
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- This is what Mark Rothko knew only too well, which explains both his surrealist, Turner-adjacent colour field paintings, as well as his alcohol-fueled suicide at age 66. ↩
- Nevermind death and taxes, it’s death and sex all the way down. And it’s the increasing proximity to the former and decreasing proximity to the latter that is the crux of any existential anguish in our later years. Not that most old people approaching death fear it, in my conversations at least most welcome it, but there’s no doubt that those of us in middle age feel this pain all too acutely, which probably goes a long way towards explaining “the happiness curve” that you’ll find in the pop-psych fashion lit, which I can’t quite bring myself to reproduce here but you know the one. ↩
- While not exactly Drake’s Manor, my 2022 year-to-date has been filled with moments like this as I renovate a former 50-person accounting office into a private art gallery to house my growing physical and digital art collections, and will also serve as a studio and home-away-from-home in which to create art. For indeed, “Art is not art, therefore, except as it leads to an engendering creativity in its beholders!” So why not dedicate 5,000 sqft to this virtuous end? Even if a byproduct is that I’ve actually been suffering from a fair bit of “decision fatigue” this year that has detracted from the time and energy I would typically devote to blogging… TNSTAAFL I guess!
Our most recent activity involved no small matter of 3D chess. These little marble tiles that you see above are really not so little, as you can see below that it took six men over half a day to carry two dozen of the 5′ x 10′ (130 lbs.) pieces from the street level up to the second-floor studio, one at a time. The Spanish-born-and-trained tiler said he hadn’t seen so many large tiles installed in a single place since he worked on the Apple stores in his home country. And these were just for my bathroom…
- It’s been said before but it bears repeating that this is in many ways the MOST disruptive aspect of crypto: that such a staggering degree of resources is now in the hands of people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s instead of 60s, 70s, or even 80s. There’s scant few historical precedents for this kind of wealth transfer. Perhaps the closest comparison is that of the Founding Fathers of the American Constitution, many of whom were under the age of 35 at the signing of The Declaration of Independence. Perhaps that’s part of what’s make the Broadway production of Hamilton such a hit? That we’re secretly starving for another break from reins of oppression?
One way or another, this 21st-century generation of youthful millionaires and billionaires are certainly more risk-prone and less risk-averse than their parents, if considerably less ready to lay down their lives for their causes compared to the Founding Fathers. But given that we’re in Digital (And Exceedingly Decadent) Age at the moment, that latter fault is unavoidable, and possibly bordering on acceptable.
But still it’s a young pack of up-and-comers swinging unusually large bats. But will such lack of self-developed guardrails built-up over a long lifetime of lived experience lead to perpetual Celsius-0xb1 retardation (see lulzy court order) or to greater innovation in biotech, space tech, energy tech, political systems, etc? Time to place your bets… if there’s even a choice. ↩
- Insert meme of “in your age category I’m a 6, but in your dad’s age category I’m a mothafuckin’ 10 baby” ↩
- Which is doesn’t. Ahem, Rogers. ↩
- Some fragments of memories (with apologies to Hiroshi Fujiwara):