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STOIC POETRY | Swimming to a park bench by the sea

Updated: Sep 4, 2021

I swam yesterday in the sea. I swam possibly too far yesterday in the sea, as I am today quite worn and spent. I expect that this is a consequence of my age, and my reluctance to give up the template of living remembered of my youth, when difficult physical exertion was something less endured as enjoyed, both in the moment and after the hard work of exertion was done. I am no longer that young man, and a hard swim now in the sea, maybe a half a mile or more, requires some recovery, both for the body and the mind. I wonder what this advancing condition is like for the very old, when simply standing and going to the bathroom is endeavor enough for one day? Do the elderly sit and lament their remembered youth? Or does the aged mind simply accept and adjust to the new standard and recognized limits - getting old with little or no protest to the evident bodily and cerebral decline?

How do we each accommodate the diminishment of what we are, against the memory of what we have been? How are the lessening limits of what we can do then reconciled against the record of memory of what we once did, and the observance of the young who do so easily and carelessly what we now cannot? I expect that there is something in our Biology which accommodates this transition; a resignation engine of some sort which councils our mind to place safe limits on our ambition, and temper our expectation, and dampen our hopes, at least with regard to the thoughts and actions - particularly the potentially harmful actions - which we might seek to engage.

And so now I sit in the morning with this weary and spent body, typing these words while sipping coffee which fails to refresh. Yesterday's long ocean swim took something away from me which I haven't yet got back, and I suspect this fact is the mechanism which advances the gauge of my expectations such that I may not ever do as yesterday once again. My caliber has been reset with regard to how far I can swim in the ocean. Half a mile is clearly too far... Maybe a quarter mile next time, and a little less the time after that. And if I do this well, keeping up the caution, then maybe I won't notice or even experience much, that sense of regret over the loss of my vigor and vitality due to age. Perhaps this is the mechanism of which I referenced above? The bodily machine of adjusting expectations against the feedback of experience. Perhaps this is the course of the gentle road to old age: when one challenging experience after another, the consequence of my inevitable physical decline, must lead me to become that seemingly contented old man seated at the park bench by the sea, amused by pigeons, and the simple joy of watching others who swim in the sea.


My name is Kurt Bell.

You can learn more about The Good Life in my book Going Alone.

Be safe... But not too safe.

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