Bella Vista Church of Christ



Submitted by Nancy Barker

Cicero On Old Age


  Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC), the Roman statesman and philosopher was once asked to address the subject of old age. He had no time for those who complained about their old age. Their fault was one of character, not of years. "Old men who exercise self-discipline, who are not peevish or insensitive, find old age quite bearable." He does admit that abject poverty makes old age difficult to bear, but even the wealthy find old age a burden if they are foolish and thoughtless.


  The most effective weapon that old age possesses is the fruit of a long and active virtuous life. The consciousness of a life well led, and the memory of many a deed well done, is a source of the richest happiness. There is the old age of peace and quiet that comes as the summation of a life devoted wholly to private concerns and led with moral rectitude, with grace, and with good taste.


Cicero gives us four reasons

why old age can become an unhappy time


  Old age draws us away from life's activities. From what activities? Only the purely physical. The old do not retire from personal influence, expression of opinion, or the sharing of wisdom. Intellectual powers stay with the old. Authors and philosophers and statesmen produce much great work in their old age. Old age need not be a time of boredom. On the contrary, it may well be very busy indeed in continuation of the interests of earlier years. It is also a time when you can take up entirely new interests.


  Old age diminishes physical vigor. Teaching, writing, and mentoring do not require youthful bodies and strength. At eighty-four Cicero was still counseling others. Disability is not peculiar to old age. People suffer from ill health or accidents at all ages. It's important to take due thought for good health, following a program of moderate exercise, eating and drinking. We must also exercise the mind to avoid a sedentary, diffident, and lethargic old age. Stand up for your own rights, refuse to sell out to anyone, and do not grow old in spirit.


  Cicero was preparing manuscripts for publication and writing about law, learning a new language, and recalling all that he had said, heard and done that day. Exercises of the intellect train the mind so that we experience no yearning for lost physical vigor. When life is a constant round of interests and activities, we do not notice the gradual approach of old age.


  Old age deprives us of almost all pleasures. The desire for pleasure is the ultimate source of perversions, crimes of passion, adultery, gambling and recklessness. The search for pleasure renders a person ineffective in all matters requiring the use of the mind, the reasoning power, the power of thought. Pleasure hampers the operation of the intellect. Old age delivers you from its power.


  The highest recommendation of old age is not having to attend banquets or to endure drunkenness, indigestion and sleeplessness. Instead we can enjoy congenial company and conversation over a simple meal. There are the pleasures of gardening, of planting, seeing all forms of life grow. We can be amazed and delighted by the fertility of nature. Landscaping, trees, vegetables, fruits, cattle and sheep-raising, bee-keeping and the endless variety of flowers occupy us. The leisure-hour occupations of hunting, and the cultivation of pigs, goats, chickens, milk, cheese, and honey can still be enjoyed in old age.


  Old age brings us nearer to death. There are only two possible views: either death is the total extinction of ourselves, or it conducts us to a place where we shall live forever, in which case it is something to be desired.


  Death is ever present no matter what one's age. Youth have to face death also. So it is with the life of man: from the young, it is taken by violence, from the old by the fullness of time. As I come closer and closer to death, I seem, so to speak, to see the land and to be at last about to come into harbor after a longer sea-journey. Pythagoras has said that we are not to leave our post and station in life except by order of our commanding officer, that is God.


  It seems to me that once we have had our fill of all things that have engaged our interest, we have had our fill of life itself. When this has happened, a sense of the fullness of life tells us that it is time to die.


  Belief in the soul as part of God's creation with human consciousness, memory, foreknowledge, the arts, understanding, discoveries argue for immortality. It cannot perish. No one will ever convince me that our souls live only so long as they are inside our mortal bodies. For my own part, I am fairly carried away by my eagerness to see my father and dear friends, and those whom I have heard and read about. If I am deluded in believing that the soul of man is immortal, then I am glad to be deluded.


Submitted by Nancy Barker