Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart by Gordon Livingston, M.D.

Before I take Gordon Livingston, M.D. and his book, "Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart" back to the library I want to once again re-read his chapter on memory, and the legitimacy of the memories we retrieve.

As a matter of fact, this is a book I would be happy to re-read many times, and to share with any number of people. I am leaning towards Indigo........

The insights which he writes about in this book are presented with sensitivity and kindness, but even more with an abundance of common sense.

The flyleaf states"full of things we may know but have not articulated to ourselves, Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart, is a gentle and generous alternative to the trial-and-error learning that makes wisdom such an expensive commodity. For everyone who feels a sense of urgency that the clock ticks, and we still aren't the person we'd like to be, it offers solace, guidance, and hope."

Every chapter in this book caught my attention, but as I seem to have reached a point in life where memories bring great comfort I was especially intrigued by the title of this chapter. "The Only Paradises are Those we have Lost"

Is this true? Do we consistently lie to ourselves about the past?
Livingston starts the chapter by pointing out that our conviction that things were better when we were young is not really valid. I have suspected this for some time, - that actual events were not better, - but I have always thought that the way we coped with these events and conditions showed a little more moral stamina than that found today. Am I wrong? (sigh - I wouldn't be surprised....)

Livingston explains that "what happens as we try to come to terms with our pasts is that we see our lives as a process of continual disenchantment. We long for the security provided by the comforting illusions of our youth. We remember the breathless infatuation of first love; we regret the complications imposed by our mistakes, the compromises of our integrity, the roads not taken.......our yearning for the past is fueled by a selective memory of our younger selves."

Well, after some profound thinking I agree with that to a certain extent. Surely our memory is selective. But the mystery is, what causes me to remember sitting on the sidewalk with Jim and Barry Cooper discussing the merits of apples, oranges and bananas when I was about four years old, and yet not being able to remember how the furniture in my childhood bedroom was arranged. I will watch carefully to see if the modern day scientist discovers which portion of the brain lights up over these trivial memories.

And, in addition, I question the conclusion that postulates "when the past takes on the illusion of satisfaction, excitement and romance, it must necessarily make us disenchanted with the present". Different people view the past in different lights, depending upon where they lie on the "positive-negative" scale, and if you are lucky enough to be an optimist, than the present is indeed just an extension of the happy past.......

A little more thought may cause me to change my mind, but at the present this is what I'm thinking.

I do recommend this book to all who are still searching......

1 comment:

Willo said...

What a delightful book review. The title of the book is one I heard quoted by my Grandmother and Great Aunts. This must be where they found it.