Oliver Goldsmith (1726-1774) wrote, “I love everything that’s old: old friends, old times, old manners, old books, old wines.”
I think he was onto something. Of course, the fact I’m getting older couldn’t have anything to do with my opinion — could it?
When you think about it, old age has many superior qualities young life can’t match. An older cow seldom needs assistance birthing a calf, an older horse makes life easier for his rider because he “knows cows,” and a seasoned hunting dog knows not to chase after a rabbit when he’s supposed to be hunting ‘coons.
After the work and hunting are over, we have supper. There again, older is valued. It is said that aged beef benefits from the concentration and saturation of the natural flavor, and enzymes break down connective tissue making the beef more tender.
Want some wine with supper? Even Jesus said, in Luke 5.39, “And no one after drinking old wine desires new; for he says, ‘The old is good.’”
In my day job (interviewing country people) I particularly enjoy getting to know older folks. They have “been there and done that” as the saying goes.
Also, it’s such a pleasure to be out in the country, away from cell phones and all the other high-tech stuff that places barriers between people. An older cowboy can take time to visit without constantly checking his pockets or whatever for “messages.”
When we really pay attention to older people we figure out they know a great deal about life and the real world. The problem is, most of the time nobody is listening. If anyone had bothered to ask the older people who have lived on the land all their lives what to do to protect the forests, they would have been given sensible advice — like using grazing animals to clear the underbrush and like cutting down and removing dead trees. Also, like using motorized equipment to build water catchments for the benefit of wildlife.
Older people and their wisdom are dying, and we’re not doing a good job of saving them. Therein lies the downside of my “older is better” thesis. After older comes dying. An old saying goes, “If only when one heard that old age was coming one could bolt the door, answer “not at home” and refuse to meet him!”
Our own beloved American poet Ogden Nash (1902-1971) put his verse on the problem:
“How confusing the beams from memory’s lamp are;
One day a bachelor, the next a grampa.
What is the secret of the trick?
How did I get so old so quick?”
A couple of things have me worried, personally. I’ve learned that wrinkles aren’t painful, so they sneak up on you, and I’ve learned my body no longer can jump a four-foot high fence flat-footed.
The worst, though, was not long ago. I went to a horse show, and as I walked through the gate I met a young, handsome cowboy. He smiled and said, “Excuse me, Ma’am.”
He called me Ma’am!