Brain Food #550: How old is old enough?
It is never too late
Thoughts of the day
How old is old enough? When is one considered to be at a ‘prime’ age, to do great things? Should one wait for the right amount of experience and expertise, or rely on sheer passion and talent?
At a year when the oldest president in US history is ready to enter office, it is interesting to juxtapose the late achievers to those who seemed to have touched greatness before they even turned thirty.
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at twenty-five. Toni Morrison published her first novel at forty. Louise Bourgeois created her infamous spider sculptures in her seventies and eighties.
Life expectancy, of course, plays a major part in this. Many of history’s geniuses, who reached the peak of their artistic endeavours in their twenties, did not live to see their fifties. Since 1900, life expectancy has more than doubled. Egon Schiele was only twenty-eight when his life ended, Percy Bysshe Shelley died at twenty-nine, Emily Bronte at thirty. And even for those who lived longer, like Rainer Maria Rilke who died at fifty-one, or Nietzsche who died at fifty-five, if they were alive today, they would live to see on average another thirty sunrises and sunsets. In other words, many of us have more time, though we certainly do not act like it.
How old, then? Perhaps the answer should come intrinsically. When one feels old enough. Or, even more importantly, when one chooses to do it. It is never too late.
Early achievement is a man-made concept. But instead of focusing on our achievements, we can instead focus on making ourselves, and the rest will follow suit.
“The self does not lie passively in wait for us to discover it. Selfhood is made in the active, ongoing process, in the German verb werden, ‘to become.” — John Kaag
Paul Cezanne spent his entire life experimenting with his art. His first one-man exhibition was held in Paris in 1895, at which point his reputation as a great artist started to grow. He was fifty-six.
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