Following Sachs’ advice to let go a bit

Oliver Sachs writes beautifully about growing old and, in particular, about his imminent death. The essence of his message in the New York Times is that he remains interested in life and quite cheerful about it, but….


“I shall no longer look at ‘NewsHour’ every night. I shall no longer pay any attention to politics or arguments about global warming….. these are no longer my business; they belong to the future. I rejoice when I meet gifted young people…… I feel the future is in good hands.”

He is a little fearful but feels grateful that he has been useful and:

“[a]bove all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.”

That is all very well said.

I am approaching 70, and have had a lot of luck, and it may run out at any time. I am in that “zone” in which it is a toss-up whether one would rather be taken conveniently, if rather early; or prefer to hang on and take such pleasures as one may even in what may become a messy downward slope. Obviously one hopes one’s luck holds for a good long time. One hopes for courage in the event of things getting sticky. One hopes also that one will have the courage – and be given the easy means – to end one’s own life if one wants to.

Beyond that, one aims to take proper note of Sachs’ wisdom. One is at the time of life when it is time to be a pilgrim. The world is full of young pepople – and they are variously active, ambitious, lazy, indolent, clever and careless – and it’s their turn. I am for some reason absurdly cheerful about their prospects. But more than that, I feel (in a version of Roger Scruton’s message), that one’s first duty – and especially when there may be rather little time – is modestly to aim to fix oneself and let those with greater vigour, and with more skin in the game, fix the world.

Actually, my version of the endgame adds a refinement. I don’t want to stuff my head with many more details, and therefore I shall lose touch with some of the salient features of many arguments in which I have taken part. So I am dis-equipping myself for many debates, the better to pick a few more appropriate things to think and even to write prose about.

And on the whole, I rather hope that poetry will be a big part of what may be quite a small output.

Of course, I may have 20 years in which to come to think that I have written tripe here. But I very much doubt that Sachs has wasted his last few opportunities to write.



Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Publication date

20 February 2015


Mind & body