Brief Encounters : how should ageing reflect on human exceptionalism (2)

Brief Encounters : how should ageing reflect on human exceptionalism (2)

Philosophy
Chad Varah It was after an interview. I had, so I mused, been brilliant. Of course, I did not get the job. With an hour free, I walked to St. Stephens in Walbrook, a Wren masterpiece, usually empty but free to enter and, let me say without fear of contraception, just about the most beautiful place on earth. An old man in a black cloak was shuffling around the entrance; obviously once tall, he was now stooped and ungainly. I recognised him, remembering his once eagle eyes as well as that clipped imperious speech, now muted to little more than a mumble. As I approached, I noticed that he was inspecting what looked like a log-book, signatures of and messages from visitors. “All the great befrienders from over the world…
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Brief Encounters : how should ageing reflect on human exceptionalism (1)?

Brief Encounters : how should ageing reflect on human exceptionalism (1)?

Philosophy
Does the ageing eye bring perspective or distortion, disappointment or contentment  -  as past encounters are revisited? Christopher Hitchens I met the guy on the fringes of a think-tankish meeting somewhere in central London, sometime in the 1980s. Having something to do with the publication of a pamphlet on the political situation in Cyprus, I had a vague but half-justified reason for being thus introduced by a friend of mine. What I remember was how polite he was as he insisted, through my mumbles, in making sure he had got my name right. We talked rather aimlessly for a few minutes when, empty of new conversation, I took my leave. I regret it now, not living even a wee bit longer under that fabulous fluency of speech and charm. Following…
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The ballad of John Braniff, the passing of the working class, the marginalisation of poverty.

Philosophy
When I was about 13 years of age, four men came to the house. I am confident still that I had never seen any of them before. They were hearty but grey, sitting at the table until John joined them. Then he suddenly shuffled into the room, sat down and put his head in his hands. No, he did not want to go out for a walk or join them downtown for a drink. This was my grandfather, frail, monosyllabic and dying. The men tried to tease and cajole him. But the encounter was brought to an abrupt, wordless end and the men left. I believe that I never saw them again. On 25th August 1951, the company had given John a silver platter to mark his 50 years continuous…
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Look back, look up, look out!    Or why eco-economics now needs a Club of Romantic Maximalism

Look back, look up, look out! Or why eco-economics now needs a Club of Romantic Maximalism

Philosophy
Far back in the 20th century, Baby-Boomers had to get used to what we might call blockbuster pessimism. We can indeed think backwards to 1972 and the Club of Rome with its Limits to Growth proposition or to 1982’s The Global 2000 Report to the President -  Entering the Twenty-First Century (with its catchpenny strap : Commissioned By Carter/Disregarded by Reagan). As this is an anniversary year for both works, one can indeed expect many invitations to think backwards thus and to wonder why, with so many elaborate warnings to hand, the world never got itself pure and clean in time for the 21st century. As they say in Ayrshire, yous wiz telt  -  and at least one voice in the CoR is claiming that the world “hit the snooze…
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Forever Always Young?  (Or does retroactive pattern-seeking in old age ever create value?)

Forever Always Young? (Or does retroactive pattern-seeking in old age ever create value?)

Philosophy
Gustave Flaubert spoke to me once, telling me how unwise it is to touch your idols, given that the gilt is bound to come away on your hands. We hold this thought  -  which is not in itself specifically about ageing  -  while we add another. To wit : much of adult life involves a deliberate and entirely healthy dismissal of one’s childhood and adolescence. (more…)
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Living Dyingly (with apologies to C. Hitchens)

Philosophy
As a young schoolboy, many years ago, I began, perhaps not always very thoroughly, to read the Scottish broadsheet newspapers. Over time, I became aware of court proceedings as they were being reported, with special reference to big crime, sawn-off bank robberies, vicious gangsterism, serial killings -  all the things so appreciated by young boys in the epoch. In that setting, I have a memory still of court cases involving the deaths of elderly and sick people, deaths accelerated by the intervention of family members  -  those who delivered overdoses or willfully withheld the medicine critical to the prolongation of the life concerned. Yes, we talk of what is now called Assisted Dying. (more…)
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In the heat of the triple lock down

In the heat of the triple lock down

Philosophy
Well, the author has a lot of humanity to share. Good for him. But his book could certainly have done without the favourable references to Abraham Maslow (surely the most raggedy old hat in the milliner’s bargain-basement), Carl Jung, Woody Allen and Ashton Applewhite…. Ugh. With such an untutored eye, all the cultural simpering of the New Age is jumbled onto the page here here with an utterly predictable critique of the way we live in this century. Now that “the storms of youth and middle-age are behind us” (sic), we can apparently be free to complain about acquisitiveness, materialism, the consumerism that “has the power to distract us from such vital issues as ageing and death”. Older people are, meanwhile, so dissed in the media / advertising and youthful…
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How to grow old badly : a non-beginner’s guide (or The Tale of Dr. Fernoux).

How to grow old badly : a non-beginner’s guide (or The Tale of Dr. Fernoux).

Philosophy
Some decades ago, the UK Government issued a special 50p coin in celebration of the national membership of the European Community. On the tails-side the imprint was of hands joined in a circle, symbolising continental togetherness. You could buy a gift edition with the coin mounted, as I recall, on a velvet bed in a wee red box. The object might seem very superannuated if viewed now. Back in that day, I gave the gift version to a French friend of mine. As he was privately wealthy, I had been worried that he would take it as a trinket. However, a long time after I had, officially and forever, left that town in Burgundy, I called at his home one day, dangerously unannounced. His wife showed me into his study…
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