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2 - Ageing As ‘One More Opportunity to Fail’

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 January 2023

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Summary

In A Short History of Decay Emil Cioran writes of the ‘Decrepit Man’: ‘The time is past when he thought of himself in terms of a dawn; behold him resting on an anemic matter, open to his true duty, the duty of studying his loss and rushing into it […] behold him on the threshold of a new epoch’. While those persons whose ageing bodies have obliged such learning and haste, the new epoch can bring with it a vulnerability to despair. For Cioran, the anaemic matter of an ageing body, ‘Having reached the intimacy of [its] autumn, […] wavers between Appearance and Nothingness’. However, the body in later life also speaks quite actively (and at times quite loudly), revealing in the sounds of creaking and cracking, the actualities of frailty and finitude. It therefore calls out for attention – claiming not only oneself but also others to heed its summons. In this way, the body bares – that is, it reveals – the burdens of ageing, which persons (and others) must learn to bear, in the sense of ‘carry’. But we, ageing persons, as our bodies, can also labour diligently, even dutifully, to conceal such burdens too – and we often do, not wanting to be(come) a burden on others.

You might be familiar with that decision to conceal burdens. I know that I am, certainly: I was raised on the Saskatchewan prairies. For the uninitiated, it is a place where you learn to work hard in harsh conditions, rarely, if ever, pausing when problems arise and when your body aches or breaks down. After all, the calf must be birthed, even in the middle of the slush of cold mud and freezing rain. Harvest must come in before the freeze, you know – keep working through the day and the night. The worn-out tractor must be repaired to turn over the soil for a late start seeding, ignoring the bloodying of knuckles and cuts upon one's arm as one's limb is contorted to the shape of the engine and the orientation of adjacent rusting metal, because the cost of new machinery is too great and the growing season too short.

Type
Chapter
Information
Resourcing Hope for Ageing and Dying in a Broken World
Wayfaring through Despair
, pp. 39 - 62
Publisher: Anthem Press
Print publication year: 2022

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