Thursday, 19 September 2013

Staying Sharp Over Fifty

There's a neat piece by Quintus Curtis over at Return of Kings about staying in shape for older men. Turns out, "older" means mid-thirties over at RoK. At 59, I find the idea that ‘older’ is mid-thirties a huge joke. Anyone under 40 is, unless they have had some serious life-experiences of the kind usually involving bullets or poverty, pretty much a babe in arms to someone who has been through the wasteland. (The wasteland are those twenty years between 40 and 60 or thereabouts when you realise you've seen a lot of this before, your career has peaked, the hormones are easing off, and you have to grind out large numbers of days and years for no other reason than you woke up alive again, and it does not matter how many different reasons you invent for living, you're now doing this on sheer freaking endurance. But more on that later.) I read what these young guys say because the people my age are usually a way more inclined to rationalisation, resignation, flabby triceps, and worst, fake wisdom, like they’re all suddenly Seneca, but without, you know, actually being billionaires like Seneca was. The Manosphere self-improvement guys are much closer to my temperament and attitude, and confirmation always feels good.

A couple of places my mileage varies on the advice. I don’t like travelling: I find the whole to-and-from airports thing way too stressful, though I’m fine once aboard the plane. Also going on holiday on my own brings on feelings of loneliness which I cover up by being busy, busy, busy. And then there’s the whole bit where I have to come back. Yeah – that cab ride back from the airport really puts the cherry on the icing. (This is a very ACoA thing, civilians won’t have the first idea of what I’m talking about.) Travelling on business is fine, and going with good company is okay as well. I don't make great company for myself. Sure I appreciate the sights and sounds, but I did this in 2011, and holding back the t(y)ears  gets to be tiring after a few days. Maybe if I was in a cottage by the sea and practicing sight-reading for guitar for a week it would be better.

Which brings me to the next item. Learning new stuff, sure, but why is it always a foreign language? If that’s what you non-mathematicians do, that’s fine by me. It’s just that everybody says this, and nobody says “learn some of the math / science that you flunked in school” or “learn to play chess properly” or “learn to sight-read - the alto clef”. It’s always a damn language. I’m hopeless at languages. Like all nerds, I remember systems and processes, not isolated facts like what cabbages are called in Romanian. I get that in the context of pick-up, a language is more useful than an understanding of the quantum mechanics of the hydrogen atom, but they might give the science a nod here.

I loved, loved the idea of the  "non-game-changers". The stuff we do that actually doesn't move us forward, but feels like it should be useful or stuff we should do. The original cartoon suggests reading Ulysses as a non-game-changer, and, having read it, I kinda see what the cartoonist means. Reading Proust is a big deal and stays with you, but Ulysses - and maybe even Musil - not so much at all. 

Here's the news from and for 50- and 60-somethings. Take Mr Curtis' advice. All that stuff works. And from what I see everyday, you need to start. Yesterday.

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