29 Apr The active years of life are in most cases gone; a man has no more expectations or plans or intentions… (ARTHUR SCHOPENHAUER)
As the years increase, it always becomes easier to say. Dare to be wise — sapere aude. And after sixty, the inclination to be alone grows into a kind of real, natural instinct; for at that age everything combines in favor of it. The strongest impulse—the love of woman’s society—has little or no effect; it is the sexless condition of old age which lays the foundation of a certain self-sufficiency, and that gradually absorbs all desire for others’ company. A thousand illusions and follies are overcome; the active years of life are in most cases gone; a man has no more expectations or plans or intentions. The generation to which he belonged has passed away, and a new race has sprung up which looks upon him as essentially outside its sphere of activity.
And then the years pass more quickly as we become older, and we want to devote our remaining time to the intellectual rather than to the practical side of life. For, provided that the mind retains its faculties, the amount of knowledge and experience we have acquired, together with the facility we have gained in the use of our powers, makes it then more than ever easy and interesting to us to pursue the study of any subject. A thousand things become clear which were formerly enveloped in obscurity, and results are obtained which give a feeling of difficulties overcome.
From long experience of men, we cease to expect much from them; we find that, on the whole, people do not gain by a nearer acquaintance; and that — apart from a few rare and fortunate exceptions — we have come across none but defective specimens of human nature which it is advisable to leave in peace.
We are no more subject to the ordinary illusions of life; and as, in individual instances, we soon see what a man is made of, we seldom feel any inclination to come into closer relations with him. Finally, isolation — our own society — has become a habit, as it were a second nature to us, more especially if we have been on friendly terms with it from our youth up.
The love of solitude which was formerly indulged only at the expense of our desire for society, has now come to be the simple quality of our natural disposition — the element proper to our life, as water to a fish. This is why anyone who possesses a unique individuality — unlike others and therefore necessarily isolated — feels that, as he becomes older, his position is no longer so burdensome as when he was young.
For, as a matter of fact, this very genuine privilege of old age is one which can be enjoyed only if a man is possessed of a certain amount of intellect; it will be appreciated most of all where there is real mental power; but in some degree by every one. It is only people of very barren and vulgar nature who will be just as sociable in their old age as they were in their youth. But then they become troublesome to a society to which they are no longer suited, and, at most, manage to be tolerated; whereas, they were formerly in great request.
Counsels and Maxims