Saturday, September 12, 2020

#256 / Old Age (And Page)

Pictured above is Page Smith, who was directly responsible for helping to make the University of California, Santa Cruz into a powerfully impactful institution of higher education. In saying this, I am speaking specifically of the university's early years. Smith was the founding Provost of Cowell College, the first college established on the Santa Cruz campus. Click the link to Page's name, above, for a very nice tribute by John Dizikes, another faculty member who helped make UCSC, in its early years, into a truly unique place to study and to learn. If you would like to review the Wikipedia entry for Page Smith, here is the link to click

I was fortunate to know Page Smith personally, and other than The Chicken Book, which I never did read, I pretty much read everything he wrote - at least I thought I did. I even read his A Letter From My FatherThe Strange, Intimate Correspondence of W. Ward Smith to His Son Page Smith." This is a book that is probably filed under "biography," though "erotica" might be more accurate. Page's writings include quite a few books - mosttly about American history. Check the link to the Wikipedia entry for what turns out to be a "partial list." I thought I had read all of Page's major books until I chanced upon one I had never heard of, as I visited one of those "Little Free Libraries" that I have mentioned before

Wikipedia, which doesn't list it, would probably be as surprised as I was when I came across the following little book:

Naturally, particularly since the price was right, I promptly commandeered Old Age Is Another Country: A Traveler's Guide, and took it home with me. I am very glad I did. I am definitely in that "Old Age" country right now, but I can unreservedly recommend the book to you, whatever your age. It is not aimed only at the "old." 

In Page's book, he goes out of his way to denounce "retirement." I am with him on that, and didn't need his book to tell me that going on cruises and playing golf is not the best way (at least for me, as for Page) to realize the joys of being alive.

I liked the jokes that Page included in his book. This one, for instance:

An old man sees an old friend sitting on a park bench, weeping. He greets him and, somewhat embarrassed, asks him how things have been with him. "Wonderful, wonderful," the old man says through his sobs. "I inherited a fortune, I bought a beautiful apartment and married a lovely, sexy young woman."
"Then why are you weeping?" his friend asks.
"I can't remember where I live." 

Page urges, in his book, as one of the central themes of A Traveler's Guide, that with age comes wisdom. At least, Page claims, there is a lot more wisdom in what older people know than is often acknowledged. I gather he was trying to console his older readers (and himself) with that observation; however, I do think he is right!

Page ends his book with a section entitled, "Joy and Love Are the Answers," and the very last lines of the book (found on page 225) quote Robert Browning's "Love Among the Ruins."

Oh heart! oh blood that freezes, blood that burns!
Earth returns
For who centuries of folly, noise and sin!
Shut them in!
With their triumphs and their glories and the rest
Love is best.

Old age knows that.


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