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Thursday, January 25, 2018

Growing Old, Positive or Negative

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
                                       Dylan Thomas

The poem "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night" by Dylan Thomas is the voice of a younger man speaking to his father, who apparently is dying.

Of course, the myth is that old men are wiser than young men (and maybe older women than younger). In this poem, it is the younger man who is full of wisdom.

Reading this poem reminds me of my father. He was a fighter who did not go gentle into that good night when he died three or four years ago. He fought hard through the later years of his life, mainly against cancer. He won that battle several times. He also had some heart problems, and they're what took him in the end. An interesting fact is that he never complained about his health problems or his aches and pains. He was always superior to them, and that is a form of living bravely. He was also a happy man. He was humorous right to the end.

In old age we can become consigned to our end, lazy, and despondent. This probably has more to do with falling into depression than to the process of growing old itself. How you think affects greatly how you live. And how you think about your life in old age has a lot to do with how you thought about your life before you grew old. Our lives are a continuum of thoughts and experiences from the time of birth until the time of dying.

I'm getting older now and I wonder sometimes: Am I going gentle into that good night, or am I raging against the dying of the light. I like to think that I'm doing the latter. Part of being human is having a sense of self, and hopefully a strong and happy inner self. As a writer and painter, I continue to allow my inner self to come out of hiding. Our inner selves are often a mystery to us, we cannot 'see' our inner selves directly, except perhaps in meditation (something I cannot speak for, because I do not practice meditation). We mainly experience our inner selves indirectly, through moods, thoughts, day dreaming, sex, good work (work that feeds our inner strength and happiness), and perhaps writing and other arts.

What about the religious angle? People who believe in God, and believe that God is good and/or loving, may actually have a kind of positive resignation. That is, they are resigned to growing old and dying, but with a positive view of the process, because they see a good outcome to dying: meeting God. What about the atheist? What positive outcome is there for someone who sees the end as a dead end, as an end to self-consciousness? How do they view growing old and dying? Is raging against the dying of the light more important for them, because after this life there is no other?

Here is a link to Thomas's poem. If you go to the end of the article, you can actually hear him reading the poem. It's worth listening to just to hear his deep and resonant voice, which he was also famous for.

Hear Dylan Thomas reading this great poem
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