Wisdom of aging well, according to Epicurus

Jim Kershner, The Spokesman-Review

About 2,300 years ago, a Greek philosopher named Epicurus pondered the difficulties and rewards of old age.

He came to this conclusion:

“It is not the young man who should be considered fortunate, but the old man who has lived well, because the young man in his prime wanders much by chance, vacillating in his beliefs, while the old man has docked in the harbor, having safeguarded his true happiness.”

Epicurus, it turns out, is an excellent guide for baby boomers who are pondering such ageless questions as “How do we live a good and authentic old age?” and “How can we age gracefully?”

Daniel Klein’s 2012 book, “Travels With Epicurus: A Journey to a Greek Island in Search of a Fulfilled Life” (Penguin), is loaded with wisdom from Plato to Aristotle to Immanuel Kant about aging gracefully.Yet Klein chose Epicurus, 341-270 B.C., as the centerpiece of his book because, of all of the philosophers, “what he had to say about old age was most on the mark for me.”

For one thing, Epicurus believed that happiness can best be achieved if we “free ourselves from the prison” of everyday business, commerce and politics. Most young people cannot pull that off. Retired people can.

However, Klein, 74, says a lot of his peers can’t bring themselves to that state of contentment. They are striving ever more frantically for status, for self-improvement, and for a prolonged “youth.” Instead of jobs, they have bucket lists...

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