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Posts Tagged ‘Ageing’

The author argues in this article why he hopes to die at age 75:

I am sure of my position. Doubtless, death is a loss. It deprives us of experiences and milestones, of time spent with our spouse and children. In short, it deprives us of all the things we value.

But here is a simple truth that many of us seem to resist: living too long is also a loss. It renders many of us, if not disabled, then faltering and declining, a state that may not be worse than death but is nonetheless deprived. It robs us of our creativity and ability to contribute to work, society, the world. It transforms how people experience us, relate to us, and, most important, remember us. We are no longer remembered as vibrant and engaged but as feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic.

I feel less strongly about death or the timing of it. And while I think I’ll get use to it, the thoughts of ageing still dishearten me.

But it also illuminates a key issue with aging: the constricting of our ambitions and expectations.

We accommodate our physical and mental limitations. Our expectations shrink. Aware of our diminishing capacities, we choose ever more restricted activities and projects, to ensure we can fulfill them. Indeed, this constriction happens almost imperceptibly. Over time, and without our conscious choice, we transform our lives. We don’t notice that we are aspiring to and doing less and less. And so we remain content, but the canvas is now tiny. The American immortal, once a vital figure in his or her profession and community, is happy to cultivate avocational interests, to take up bird watching, bicycle riding, pottery, and the like. And then, as walking becomes harder and the pain of arthritis limits the fingers’ mobility, life comes to center around sitting in the den reading or listening to books on tape and doing crossword puzzles. And then …

 

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Good profile of Michael Jordan, touching on themes like ageing, obsession, nostalgia, and acceptance. “All glory is fleeting.”

Excerpts:

Michael Jordan, just in case anyone didn’t recognize the owner of a struggling franchise who in another life was the touchstone for a generation. There’s a shudder in every child of the ’80s and ’90s who does the math and realizes that Michael Jordan is turning 50. Where did the years go? Jordan has trouble believing it, difficulty admitting it to himself.

……

“I … I always thought I would die young,”……His mother would get angry with him when he’d talk to her about it. He just could never imagine being old. He seemed too powerful, too young, and death was more likely than a slow decline. The universe might take him, but it would not permit him to suffer the graceless loss and failure of aging. A tragic flaw could undo him but never anything as common as bad knees or failing eyesight.

……

The memories came to him, how he felt then. “It was very pure, if I can say it right,” he’d explain later. “It was pure in 1984 … I was still dreaming.”

……

“I value that,” he says. “I like reminiscing. I do it more now watching basketball than anything. Man, I wish I was playing right now. I would give up everything now to go back and play the game of basketball.” “How do you replace it?” he’s asked. “You don’t. You learn to live with it.” “How?” “It’s a process,” he says.

……

His whole life has been about proving things, to the people around him, to strangers, to himself. This has been successful and spectacularly unhealthy. If the boy in those letters from Chapel Hill is gone, it is this appetite to prove — to attack and to dominate and to win — that killed him. In the many biographies written about Jordan, most notably in David Halberstam’s “Playing for Keeps,” a common word used to describe Jordan is “rage.” Jordan might have stopped playing basketball, but the rage is still there. The fire remains, which is why he searches for release, on the golf course or at a blackjack table, why he spends so much time and energy on his basketball team and why he dreams of returning to play.

……

“It’s gone,” he says. “I can’t get it back. My ego is so big now that I expect certain things. Back then, you didn’t.”

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The [Hall of Fame] speech itself, if you watch it again, is an open window into what Jordan is like in private: funny, caustic, confident, sarcastic, competitive. He sees himself not as a gifted athlete but as someone who refused to lose.

……

He described what the game meant to him. He called it his “refuge” and the “place where I’ve gone when I needed to find comfort and peace.” Basketball made him feel complete, and it was gone. “One day,” he said, “you might look up and see me playing the game at 50.”

……

When he mentions that Yvette never saw him play basketball, he says, “She never saw me at 218.” On the wall of his office there’s a framed photograph of him as a young man, rising toward the rim, legs pulled up near his chest, seeming to fly. He smiles at it wistfully. “I was 218,” he says.

……

The chasm between what his mind wants and what his body can give grows every year. If Jordan watches old video of Bulls games and then hits the gym, he says he’ll go “berserk” on the exercise machines. It’s frightening. A while back, his brother, Larry, who works for the team, noticed a commotion on the practice court. He looked out the window of his office and saw his brother dominating one of the best players on the Bobcats in one-on-one. The next morning, Larry says with a smile, Jordan never made it into his office. He got as far as the team’s training room, where he received treatment.”You paying the price, aren’t you?” Larry asked. “I couldn’t hardly move,” Jordan said.

……

There’s no way to measure these things, but there’s a strong case to be made that Jordan is the most intense competitor on the planet. He’s in the conversation, at the very least, and now he has been reduced to grasping for outlets for this competitive rage.

……

His self-esteem has always been, as he says, “tied directly to the game.” Without it, he feels adrift. Who am I? What am I doing? For the past 10 years, since retiring for the third time, he has been running, moving as fast as he could, creating distractions, distance. When the schedule clears, he’ll call his office and tell them not to bother him for a month, to let him relax and play golf. Three days later they’ll get another call, asking if the plane can pick him up and take him someplace. He’s restless.

……

“It’s consumed me so much,” he says. “I’m my own worst enemy. I drove myself so much that I’m still living with some of those drives. I’m living with that. I don’t know how to get rid of it. I don’t know if I could. And here I am, still connected to the game.”

……

Aging means losing things, and not just eyesight and flexibility. It means watching the accomplishments of your youth be diminished, maybe in your own eyes through perspective, maybe in the eyes of others through cultural amnesia. Most people live anonymous lives, and when they grow old and die, any record of their existence is blown away. They’re forgotten, some more slowly than others, but eventually it happens to virtually everyone. Yet for the few people in each generation who reach the very pinnacle of fame and achievement, a mirage flickers: immortality. They come to believe in it. Even after Jordan is gone, he knows people will remember him. Here lies the greatest basketball player of all time. That’s his epitaph. When he walked off the court for the last time, he must have believed that nothing could ever diminish what he’d done. That knowledge would be his shield against aging.

 

There’s a fable about returning Roman generals who rode in victory parades through the streets of the capital; a slave stood behind them, whispering in their ears, “All glory is fleeting.” Nobody does that for professional athletes. Jordan couldn’t have known that the closest he’d get to immortality was during that final walk off the court, the one symbolically preserved in the print in his office. All that can happen in the days and years that follow is for the shining monument he built to be chipped away, eroded. Maybe he realizes that now. Maybe he doesn’t. But when he sees Joe Montana joined on the mountaintop by the next generation, he has to realize that someday his picture will be on a screen next to LeBron James as people argue about who was better.

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