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  • I'm turning 44 next month,

  • and I have the sense that 44 is going to be a very good year,

  • a year of fulfillment, realization.

  • I have that sense,

  • not because of anything particular in store for me,

  • but because I read it would be a good year

  • in a 1968 book by Norman Mailer.

  • "He felt his own age, forty-four ..."

  • wrote Mailer in "The Armies of the Night,"

  • "... felt as if he were a solid embodiment

  • of bone, muscle, heart, mind, and sentiment to be a man,

  • as if he had arrived."

  • Yes, I know Mailer wasn't writing about me.

  • But I also know that he was;

  • for all of us -- you, me, the subject of his book,

  • age more or less in step,

  • proceed from birth along the same great sequence:

  • through the wonders and confinements of childhood;

  • the emancipations and frustrations of adolescence;

  • the empowerments and millstones of adulthood;

  • the recognitions and resignations of old age.

  • There are patterns to life,

  • and they are shared.

  • As Thomas Mann wrote: "It will happen to me as to them."

  • We don't simply live these patterns.

  • We record them, too.

  • We write them down in books, where they become narratives

  • that we can then read and recognize.

  • Books tell us who we've been,

  • who we are, who we will be, too.

  • So they have for millennia.

  • As James Salter wrote,

  • "Life passes into pages if it passes into anything."

  • And so six years ago, a thought leapt to mind:

  • if life passed into pages, there were, somewhere,

  • passages written about every age.

  • If I could find them, I could assemble them into a narrative.

  • I could assemble them into a life,

  • a long life, a hundred-year life,

  • the entirety of that same great sequence

  • through which the luckiest among us pass.

  • I was then 37 years old,

  • "an age of discretion," wrote William Trevor.

  • I was prone to meditating on time and age.

  • An illness in the family and later an injury to me

  • had long made clear that growing old could not be assumed.

  • And besides, growing old only postponed the inevitable,

  • time seeing through what circumstance did not.

  • It was all a bit disheartening.

  • A list, though, would last.

  • To chronicle a life year by vulnerable year

  • would be to clasp and to ground what was fleeting,

  • would be to provide myself and others a glimpse into the future,

  • whether we made it there or not.

  • And when I then began to compile my list, I was quickly obsessed,

  • searching pages and pages for ages and ages.

  • Here we were at every annual step through our first hundred years.

  • "Twenty-seven ... a time of sudden revelations,"

  • "sixty-two, ... of subtle diminishments."

  • I was mindful, of course, that such insights were relative.

  • For starters, we now live longer, and so age more slowly.

  • Christopher Isherwood used the phrase "the yellow leaf"

  • to describe a man at 53,

  • only one century after Lord Byron used it to describe himself at 36.

  • (Laughter)

  • I was mindful, too, that life can swing wildly and unpredictably

  • from one year to the next,

  • and that people may experience the same age differently.

  • But even so, as the list coalesced,

  • so, too, on the page, clear as the reflection in the mirror,

  • did the life that I had been living:

  • finding at 20 that "... one is less and less sure of who one is;"

  • emerging at 30 from the "... wasteland of preparation into active life;"

  • learning at 40 "... to close softly the doors to rooms

  • [I would] not be coming back to."

  • There I was.

  • Of course, there we all are.

  • Milton Glaser, the great graphic designer

  • whose beautiful visualizations you see here,

  • and who today is 85 --

  • all those years "... a ripening and an apotheosis," wrote Nabokov --

  • noted to me that, like art and like color,

  • literature helps us to remember what we've experienced.

  • And indeed, when I shared the list with my grandfather,

  • he nodded in recognition.

  • He was then 95 and soon to die,

  • which, wrote Roberto Bolaño,

  • "... is the same as never dying."

  • And looking back, he said to me that, yes,

  • Proust was right that at 22, we are sure we will not die,

  • just as a thanatologist named Edwin Shneidman was right

  • that at 90, we are sure we will.

  • It had happened to him,

  • as to them.

  • Now the list is done:

  • a hundred years.

  • And looking back over it,

  • I know that I am not done.

  • I still have my life to live,

  • still have many more pages to pass into.

  • And mindful of Mailer,

  • I await 44.

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause)

I'm turning 44 next month,

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B1 TED age life wrote mindful list

【TED】Joshua Prager: Wisdom from great writers on every year of life (Wisdom from great writers on every year of life | Joshua Prager)

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    VoiceTube posted on 2016/07/09
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