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STOIC POETRY | The jollity of aged men

Updated: Sep 4, 2021

I encountered this quote today of Nathaniel Hawthorne, relating his impression of the humor and intellect of aged men. I do not believe Mr. Hawthorne sought to disparage this exceedingly rare class of mortal, as much as to highlight the consequence of some early risk in life which - if unmitigated - may result in a more hollow and unsettling dotage than mere years might otherwise demand. Hawthorne equates this quality - to a greater or lesser degree - to the aspect of good humor; citing both intellect and humor as being subject to either deep, abiding mind-craft, or the blooming or declining faculties of early life and our final years. And when a consequence of the first, the heavens may then rejoice in life's triumphant encore in so boldly returning again to the stage - even if in the guise of another actor - yet while the latter recognition causes our lips to purse in mute witness and wonder of the fate which may await even us...that is, if we are ever so fortuned to outlive the man or woman we once were during the time we imagined was our life's prime. Yet, a still graver solemnity may attend, should we discover the ghost we think we remember so well, is actually someone we never had the courage to live.

This is The Risk of Avoiding Risk.

"Externally, the jollity of aged men has much in common with the mirth of children; the intellect, any more than a deep sense of humor, has little to do with the matter; it is, with both, a gleam that plays upon the surface, and imparts a sunny and cheery aspect alike to the green branch, and gray, mouldering trunk. In one case, however, it is real sunshine; in the other, it more resembled the phosphorescent glow of decayed wood." -Nathanial Hawthorne (The Scarlet Letter)

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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