A late-in-life reflection and modern-day philosophical exploration of what it means to age authentically.
Septuagenarian Klein (co-author: Heidegger and a Hippo Walk Through Those Pearly Gates, 2009) is on a personal quest to redeem the grizzled and gray-haired among us. Returning to the Greek island of Hydra, which he visited in his youth, he sought to watch and learn from a culture that, he writes, best embodies the grace of old age. Over leisurely glasses of retsina at the local tavern, he observed the “lived time” of his aged, Greek friends and lamented the contemporary Western desire to extend the prime of life beyond its course. What do we lose, he asks, when we deny our hard-earned senior citizenship and opt instead for implants, Viagra and a second career? With the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus as his guide, Klein navigates a veritable sea of great thinkers and their treatises on aging. From Aristotle to Frank Sinatra, each philosopher offers a different take on what it means to live a meaningful life in one’s later years. For Epicureans, it’s a life devoted to simple, enduring pleasures and free of pain, particularly the pain we incur on ourselves by pursuing certain pleasures. As it turns out, there are no specific rules to living life well or to making peace with old age, but Klein suggests that perhaps the act of asking can be “some kind of end in itself.” Some readers, especially younger readers, will reply in the affirmative when Klein wonders aloud if he is simply “a befuddled old geezer barking at the moon.” Others will appreciate the slow, lighthearted amble of his discourse and the wise cast of characters that inhabit his journey.
Charming and accessible, this philosophical survey simply and accessibly makes academic philosophy relevant to ordinary human emotion.