February 2nd is the birthday of James Joyce. It is also the day I was born seventy two years ago. Joyce turns 127 today. He has a few years and far, far more talent on me. In Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man he wrote:
“I will tell you what I will do and what I will not do. I will not serve that in which I no longer believe, whether it call itself my home, my fatherland, or my church: and I will try to express myself in some mode of life or art as freely as I can and as wholly as I can, using for my defence the only arms I allow myself to use—silence, exile and cunning.”
And in the Oxford Book of Ages, the following passages were cited on the page for 72 years.
One virtue he had in perfection, which was prudence, too often the only one that is left us at seventy-two. Goldsmith, The Vicar of Wakefield
Nothing is more incumbent on the old, than to know when they shall get out of the way, and relinquish to younger successors the honours they can no longer earn, and the duties they can no longer perform. Thomas Jefferson. Letter to John Vaughan
Dear Miss Martineau,
I am seventy-two years of age, at which period there comes over one a shameful love of ease and repose, common to dogs, horses, clergymen and even to Edinburgh Reviewers. Then an idea comes across me sometimes that I am entitled to five or six years of quiet before I die.
Sydney Smith Dec 11, 1842
It is also Groundhog Day today. This is a good day to have been born. At least, I have a way to remember it. It appears that Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow early this morning indicating that an already harsh winter will last for yet another six weeks.
Over the years, I have collected a great many thoughts about Aging, one of the most frequent themes in my Commonplace Book. Here are a few:
The purpose of living is to get old enough to have something to say. But by that time, your voice doesn’t work and your hands won’t obey you so it’s tough as hell to find a way to say it all. M.F.K. Fisher
December’s come again, and the winter birds fly overhead. And I keep getting older.
You’re only ripe for a moment. Life made more sense in the Middle Ages, when no one lasted past forty. Brian Morton Starting Out in the Evening
What is it that puts me outside? It is age. The wound of age. Philip Roth The Human Stain