Re-Beginning to Live

‘That which they, report of him [Cato the Elder], amongst other things, that in his extreme old age he put himself upon learning the Greek tongue with so greedy an appetite, as if to quench a long thirst, does not seem to me to make much for his honour; it being properly what we call falling into second childhood. All things have their seasons, even good ones… Eudemonidas, seeing Xenocrates when very old, still very intent upon his school lectures: “When will this man be wise,” said he, “if he is yet learning?

The young are to make their preparations, the old to enjoy them, say the sages: and the greatest vice they observe in us is that our desires incessantly grow young again; we are always re-beginning to live.’

Montaigne, ‘All Things have their Season’, Essays, translated by Charles Cotton.

‘When I see philosophy in a young man, I rejoice; it seems to me fitting, and I think that the young man in question is ingenuous; that he who does not study philosophy is not ingenuous and will never himself be worthy of anything noble or generous. But when I see an older man still philosophizing and not giving it up, such a man, Socrates, seems to me to deserve stripes.’

Aulus Gellius, quoting Plato’s Gorgias, in Attic Nights, Book X.

‘Those who approach the study of letters late in life, after they are worn out and exhausted by some other occupation, particularly if they are garrulous and of only moderate keenness, make themselves exceedingly ridiculous and silly by displaying their would-be knowledge.’

Gellius, Attic Nights, Book XV (Quoted here from Michael Gilleland’s blog Laudator Temporis Acti).

‘Somebody has remarked that if you have not become adept at an art by the time you are fifty you should give up. You do not have the time left to make further efforts worthwhile. People should not laugh at the old. It is painful and off-putting to see old men mixing with society. As a rule, those over fifty are most seemly when they withdraw from all activities and retire to a leisured life, and this is what they ought to do.’

Yoshida Kenko, Essays in Idleness.


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