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How to grow old

(2008-04-28 18:28:15)
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杂谈

分类: 新概念

How <wbr>to <wbr>grow <wbr>old

How to grow old

By Bertrand Russell

1. In spite of the title, this article will really be on how not to grow old, which,   at my time of life, is a much more important subject. My parents died young, I have done well in this respect as regards my other ancestors. My maternal grandfather, it is true, was cut off in the flower of his youth at the age of sixty-seven, but my other three grandparents all lived to be over eighty. Of remoter ancestors I can only discover on who did not live to a great age, and he died of a disease which is now rare, namely, having his dead cut off. A great-grandmother of mine lived to age of ninety-two, and to her last day remained a terror to all her descendants. My maternal grandmother, after having nine children who survived, one who died in infancy, and many miscarriages, as soon as she became a widow devoted herself to women's higher education. She was one of the founders of Girton College, and worked hard at opening the medical profession to women. She used to tell of how she met in Italy an elderly gentleman who was looking very sad. She asked him why he was so melancholy and he said that he had just parted from his two grandchildren. "Good gracious," she exclaimed, "I have seventy-two grandchildren, and if I were sad each time I parted from one of them, I should have a miserable existence!" "Madre snaturale," he replied. But speaking as one of the seventy-two, I prefer her recipe. After the age of eighty she found she had some difficulty in getting to sleep, so she habitually spent the hours from midnight to 3 a.m. in reading popular science. I do not believe that she never had time to notice that she was growing old. This, I think, is the proper recipe for remaining young. If you have wide and keen interests and activates in which you can still be effective, you will have no reason to think about the merely statistical fact of the number of years you have already lived, still less of the probable shortness of your future.

 

2.As regards health, I have nothing useful to say as I have little experience of illness. I eat and drink whatever I like, and sleep when I cannot keep awake. I never do anything whatever on the ground that it is good for health, though in actual fact the things I like doing are mostly wholesome.  

 

3.Psychologically there are two dangers to be guarded against in old age. One of these is too great an absorption in the past. One should not live in memories, in regrets for the good old days, or in sadness about friend who are dead. One's thoughts must be directed to the future, and to things about which there is something to be done. This is not always easy; one's own past is a gradually increasing weight. It is easy to think to oneself that one's emotions used to be more vivid than they are, and one's mind more keen. If this is true it should be forgotten, and if it is forgotten it will probably not be true.

 

4.The other thing to be avoided is clinging to youth in the hope of finding strength in its vitality. When your children are grown up they want to live their own lives, and if you continue to be as interested in them as you were when they were young, you are likely to become a burden to them, unless they are unusually insensible. I do not mean that one should be without interest in them, but one's interest should be contemplative and, if possible, philanthropic, but not too emotional. Animals become indifferent to their young ass soon as their young can look after themselves, but human beings, owing to the length of infancy, find this less easy.

 

5.I think that a successful old age is easiest for those who have strong impersonal interests leading to suitable activities. It is in this sphere that long experience is really fruitful, and that the wisdom born of experience can be used without becoming a burden. It is no use telling grown-up children not to make mistakes, both because they will not believe you, and because mistakes are an essential part of education. But if you are one of those who are incapable of impersonal interests, you may find that your life will be empty unless you concern yourself with your children and grandfather. In that case you must realize that while you can still help them in material ways, as by making them an allowance or knitting them jumpers, you must not expect that they will enjoy your company.

 

6.Some old people are oppressed by the fear of death. In the young there is a justification for this feeling. Young men who have reason to fear they will be killed a battle may justifiably feel bitter in the thought that they have been cheated of the best things that life has to offer. But in an old man who has known human joys and sorrows and has done whatever work it was in him to do , the fear of death is somewhat ignoble. The best way to overcome it——so at least it seems to me——is to make your interests gradually wider and more impersonal, until bit by bit the walls of the ego recede, and your life becomes increasingly part of the universal life. An individual human   existence should be like a river——small at first, narrowly contained within its banks, and rushing passionately past rocks and over waterfalls. Gradually the river grows wider, the banks recede, the waters flow more quietly, and in the end, without any visible break, they become part of the sea, and painlessly lose their individual being. The man who, in old age, can see his life in this way, will not suffer from the fear of death, since the thing be cares for will continue. And if, with the loss of vitality, weariness increases, the thought of rest will not be unwelcome. I should wish to die while still at work, knowing that others will carry on what I can no longer do, and content in the thought that what was possible has been done. 

 

题目虽然这样写,这篇文章真正要谈的却是怎样才能不老。在我这个年纪,这实在是一个重要得多的问题。我的第一个忠告是,要仔细挑选你的祖先。尽管我的父母都是英年早逝,但是就其他祖先而言,我还是挑选得很不错的。我的外祖父固然是在风华正茂之年就弃世而去,年仅六十七岁,可是我的祖父母和外祖母都活到八十岁以上。至于稍远的亲戚,我只发现一位没能长寿的,他死于一种现已罕见的病症:他的头被人砍掉了。我的曾祖母是吉本的朋友,她活到九十二岁高龄,一直到死,她始终都让子孙们颇感敬畏。我的外祖母,一辈子生了十个孩子,活了九个,还有一个早年夭折,此外还有过多次流产。我的外祖父去世之后,她马上就致力于妇女的高等教育事业。她是格顿学院的创办人之一,力图使妇女进人医疗行业。她总爱讲起她在意大利遇到过的一位满面愁容的老先生,她问他如何那样忧伤,他说他的两个孙子刚刚离开了他了。“天哪!”我的外祖母叫道,“我有七十二个孙儿孙女,如果我每作别一个就要悲伤不止,那我的生活可就太痛苦了!”“你这个当母亲的可真怪!”他回答说。但是,作为她的七十二个孙儿孙女的一员,我却要说我很赞赏她的做法。上了八十岁后,她开始感到有些难于入睡,她便经常在午夜时分至凌晨三时这段时间里阅读科普著作。我想她根本就没有工夫去留意她在日渐衰老。我认为,这就是保持青春不老的最佳办法。你要是有广泛的爱好和强烈的兴趣,而且还有能力参加一些活动,你就没有理由去考虑你已经活了多少岁这样的具体数字,更没有理由去考虑你也许已经时日无多了。

至于健康,由于我这一生几乎从未患过病,也就没有什么有益的忠告。我想吃就吃,想喝就喝,想睡就睡,从不因某事有益于健康而去刻意参与它,尽管实际上我喜欢做的事情通常是有益于健康的。

 

在心理上,老年人须防范两种危险倾向。一是过分沉迷于往事。人不能生活在回忆当中,不能生活在对美好的往昔的怀念或对去世的友人的哀念之中。一个人应当放眼未来,把心思自己可以有所作为的事情上。要做到这一点并非总是那么容易,随着年龄的增长,过去的经历就是一个日益沉重的负担。人们总爱认为自己过去的情感是多么的强烈,头脑是多么的敏锐。假如真的如此,就不要去想它;而如果你不去想它,情形就很可能不是这样了。

另一个要避免的危险倾向是过分依恋年轻人,期望从他们的青春活力中汲取力量。子女们长大成人之后,都想按照自己的意愿生活。如果你还像他们年幼时那样关心他们,你就会成为他们的包袱,除非他们特别的麻木不仁。我不是说不应该关心子女,而是说这种关心应该是多为他们着想,而不应该过分地动感情。动物们一旦它们的后代可以自己照顾自己,它们就撒手不管了,而人由于抚养子女的时间较长,是很难做到这一点的。

我认为如果老年人具有强烈的兴趣,参加适当的活动,并且不受个人情感影响,他们的晚年是最容易过得好的。只有在这些活动中,他们长期的历练获得的智慧才会是真正有益的;只有在这些活动中,他们的智慧才能淋漓尽致地充分发挥作用。告诫已长大成年的孩子别犯错误,是没有什么用的,一来他们不会听你的,二来犯错误原本就是受教育的一个重要组成部分。但如果你不能对个人以外的事物发生兴趣,你会发现你只有把心思都放在孩子们或孙子们身上,生活才不会空虚。如果是这样,你该明白,自己只能为他们提供些物质上的帮助,如给点零钱,给他们织件毛衣等,千万别指望他们会愿意你陪伴在他们身边。

有些老年人因畏惧死亡而感到十分苦恼压抑。年青时有这种想法是可以理解的。年轻人害怕战死沙场,而且一想到人生最美好的一切就会这么被葬送掉,他们就会非常痛苦,这是无可厚非的。但对于老年人,人生的悲欢离合你已都经历过了,自己要做的事情也都做了,这时若还恐惧死亡,那就有些可怜和可耻了。

 

在我看来,克服这种恐惧心理的最好方法便是逐渐扩展自己的兴趣,并使其不受感情的影响,慢慢地,自我封闭的藩篱就会一点点消失,你的生命则越来越融合到宇宙的生命之中。一个人的一生应该像一条河,起初是涓涓细流,夹在窄窄的河岸之间,然后激情澎湃地冲过巨石,冲下瀑布,渐渐地,河面变得越来越宽,两岸离得越来越远,河水平稳地流淌着,直到最后,终于融入大海,再也没有什么阻碍了,而毫无痛苦地结束了自己作为个体的存在。老年人如能这么看待生命,将绝不会有对死亡的恐惧,因为他所珍爱的一切还会继续存在下去。而且,随着精力的衰退,日见倦怠,就会觉得长眠未尝不是一件好事。我真希望自己能在工作的时候死去。想到别人会继续我未竟的事业,想到一切自己能做的事情都已完成,我心里就非常满足。

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