Outliving Sin

“Age cannot wither her,” Shakespeare had a character say of Cleopatra, “nor custom stale her infinite variety.”

Alas, Will was carried away. I’m into my 93d year, and I speak from experience in testifying that the variety of sinful options diminishes with time, and age sooner or later withers us all. One might describe the Seven Deadly Sins as a pre-retirement problem.

Take lust, for example. Even at my age, an un-withered Cleo remains a feast for the eyeballs, but is no longer a challenge elsewhere. I can still stiffen my spine, but little else.

Gluttony is likewise a problem of the past. Retirees spend an increasing proportion of their time visiting doctors (or, if lucky, their un-withered nurses) and being told to lose weight to ease the burden on hearts going stale. Those who can’t follow such doctors’ orders are unlikely to reach even octogenarian heights.

Greed likewise diminishes with age. Most of us spend our senior moments with financial advisers simply try to assure that savings and investments will last as long as we do. Taking risks in hope of greater wealth is a game for the young.

Diminished sloth, on the other hand, is a matter of balancing imperatives. We retirees are constantly told we must exercise more to maintain muscle tone and avoid corpulence. We respect that, and do our best – within limits imposed by another bit of stern advice for the elderly, to get more sleep. That’s not sloth, but compliance with an infinite variety of advice.

Wrath? Those given to excessive anger in their younger and middle years are probably living alone by retirement years – or with a second or even third spouse, however many it took to learn that wrath is usually counterproductive. Years make us not combative, but docile.

Envy is another sin that most of us outgrow. We nourish a circle of friends with similar interests and accomplishments, companions whose variety is less than infinite. By the time we reach retirement, we no longer covet their homes, automobiles or wives – and feel sorry for the few remaining who are upwardly jealous.

And pride? I learned a new word recently: sonder. Had to look it up:

n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own . . . with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness . . . with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.

Humbling thought, that; absolutely demolishes pride.




One thought on “Outliving Sin

  • At 72 my sins are diminished but still percolating. I hope I make it to the place you’re at but I’m not feeling too good today, maybe tomorrow I’ll entertain being in my nineties.
    Good writing,Don.
    You left TB at the right time,big money is moving in now

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