How to grow old gracefully

Title: Travels with Epicurus

Author: Daniel Klein


How does one grow old gracefully? Klein attempts to answer this question, discussing ideas on the subject as presented by philosophers and religions throughout time, mixed in with his own experiences as a 73-year-old man. Armed with a suitcase full of books, including his favourite writings from Epicurus, an ancient Greek philosopher ('Nothing is enough for the man to whom enough is too little'), he travels to the Greek island of Hydra, where in the past he's admired the way the old men seem so contented. He wants to know their secret to resisting the urge to pursue the 'forever young' impulse of modern man.

Klein is a philosophy graduate who has previously co-authored twenty-five books in a lifetime of philosophical investigation. Effortlessly drawing in a broad range of views, he explores the ideas of Epicurus, who did not believe in an afterlife, but rather pursued his ultimate question: 'How does one make the most of one's life?' I could feel Klein's yearning for a more spiritual experience, as he seems to be wondering if this is all there is, after all.

The index says it all… "On Seeking A Philosophy In Old Age, On Epicurus's Philosophy of Fulfillment, On Time and Worry Beads, On Solitary Reflection, On Existential Authenticity, On Mellowing to Metaphysics, On Stoicism and Old Old Age, On the Timelessness of Spirituality, On a Mindful Old Age."

Considering the subject matter is deep and the ideas profound, this is an entertaining read ('Alive is the new dead'). Women get a passing mention, but essentially this discourse is on the difficulty men have in giving up their younger, driven lives for a more elegant easing into old age. That said, it spoke to me too, and I'm a woman not yet in that stage of life, but it's fast approaching and I took heart from his approach.

Klein learnt something on Hydra. The contrast could not have been greater between the weather-beaten old men, isolated on their island and contentedly embracing life and family, and the desperate struggle of so many to resist aging, particularly in his home country of America. He began to give himself permission to stop trying to stay young: to relax, enjoy and celebrate this 'old man' stage of his life.

This beautifully presented, small hardcover book is a rewarding read, an excellent gift for anyone approaching the latter stages of life.

Books reviewed are available at the Book Warehouse, Lismore.

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