The Spirit Weakens

‘Tis indeed the only comfort I find in my old age, that it mortifies in me several cares and desires wherewith my life has been disturbed; the care how the world goes, the care of riches, of grandeur, of knowledge, of health, of myself.’

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

‘It is indeed in youth that we make our mistakes. In age, on the other hand, the spirit weakens, we become indifferent and apathetic and nothing rouses us. The heart grows naturally calm, so that we no longer act in futile ways but instead tend to our bodies live free of discontent and try to avoid troubling others. Age has more wisdom than youth, just as youth has more beauty than does age.

Why cling to a life which cannot last forever, only to arrive at ugly old age? The longer you live, the greater your share of shame. It is most seemly to die before forty at the latest. Once past this age, people develop an urge to mix with others without the least shame in their unsightliness; they spend their dwindling years fussing adoringly over their children and grandchildren, hoping to live long enough to see them make good in the world. Their greed for the things of the world grows ever deeper, till they lose all ability to be moved by life’s pathos and become really quite disgraceful.’

Yoshida Kenko, Essays in Idleness.


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