Read any good books lately? (I get this question all the time!) If you’re like me, I would hope you go through life as a perpetual student (only without the final exams).
I’m reading Travels with Epicurus by Daniel Klein (Penguin, 2012), for the third time. This book has had a profound influence on me. I hope it does the same for you.
What’s it about? Well, the subtitle sums it up: A Journey to a Greek Island in Search of a Fulfilled Life.. It’s a late-in-life exploration of what it means to age authentically. Klein returns, at age 73, to the Greek Island of Hydra, which he visited in his youth, to learn from a culture which embodies the “lived time” – the grace of older age.
What’s “lived time?” Over leisurely glasses of retsina at the local tavern, Klein observes the “lived time” of his aging Greek friends. And, he laments what’s lost in our anti-aging culture in the frantic rush to stay “forever young.”
Who was Epicurus? Armed with a suitcase crammed with philosophy books, Klein reflects consistently on Epicurus’ core concern: He fundamentally wanted to know how to make the most of one’s life, particularly in one’s later years.
Companionship, idleness, the pleasures of recalling your story, reflecting on what you believe, who you love and have loved – all of this is part of Klein’s philosophical travels.
Klein walks the paths of Hydra, where there are no cars, talks to Dimitri, a former sailor, and now the tavern’s owner, and to Tasso, a retired judge. And, he recalls seeing a group of old Greek men companionably and joyfully dancing with each other. The closest Klein comes to the spiritual, he says, is listening to great music – and watching old men dance.
Taking in philosophy in this way is like sitting down with a wise, witty mentor explaining something that you’re truly curious about.
At age 70, like Klein, I’m curious about “lived time.” I feel like I’m in my prime time doing what I most love to do. But, I can take a few lessons from Epicurus. To age authentically, we cannot let age become our identity. We need to make our own choices about what brings us happiness.
To be true to self, I need to ask myself what I think I’m doing here at my desk, writing this blog, at the age of 70. Clearly, I think I still have some significant work left to do.
Travels with Epicurus is a delightful and spirited conversation, offering up the ingredients inherent in authentically “lived time” at any age or stage of life.