Professional Boomers Aging Badly
A Short Lesson in Critical Reading

James Hillman on Why We Age

It's not that I have kept count but by now, I have undoubtedly read hundreds of books about aging and while some are okay, the majority – vast majority – are a waste of time, telling us nothing that we don't already know on our own.

And then there are the few that are brilliant, thoughtful, meaningful and wise. Some of them are listed in that link over there in the right sidebar, Best Books on Aging, and among them is James Hillman's The Force of Character and the Lasting Life.

It's not Hillman's only book and maybe not his best. But I have been re-reading it and checking around the web to see what I could find on Hillman, who died in 2011 at age 85.

He was a Jungian psychologist with a deep, abiding and humane belief in each person's individuality and the importance of old age.

But in this book (and others), he doesn't so much tell us what to think or believe about growing old as open up possibilities – drawing on mythology, the Bible, philosophy, poetry, even rock-and-roll lyrics, among other sources – for us to consider.

The Force of Character and the Lasting Life was published in 1999, and on YouTube I found an interview with Hillman conducted at that time by the Canadian host of In Conversation with... Allan Gregg.

I don't know anything about Gregg except that, unlike many interviewers, he asks good questions and leaves the guest to answer without too much interruption.

So here is the 11-minute interview in which Hillman discusses cosmetic surgery, elder eroticism, physical deterioration (“no joke”), grandparents and, among other subjects, the purpose of aging.

If you are interested in more from Hillman, there are literally hundreds of video interviews with him posted at YouTube.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marc Leavitt: Anti-Aging


Well now I have a plan to spend any spare time watching YouTube interviews with James Hillman. This one today is just right, not to mention wonderful. Knowing he has written books as well is very good news. Thank you, Ronni, for introducing him today.

Fascinating video! Thanks for sharing it. I especially like his views on cosmetic surgery because I've never understood that obsession. I know a woman my age who has had a lot of work done and now she looks like a still photo even when she's talking and expressing emotions that should animate her face.

Such a wise man, and it's good to know there are other talks on YouTube. I never thought to look there.

His "Soul's Code - in search of character and calling" - has been a comfort to me these 20 years.

I was not familiar with him, but now will seek out more of his sound, grounded, healthy comments. Thank you for sharing this today Ronni.

What a positive way of looking at aging. However, Gregg repeats something I think has been recently discounted: that older people don't need as much sleep. I think we now believe that older people need, but have a harder time getting, the recommended eight hours. Other than that, I found Hillman's perspective uplifting.

Yes, that's true, Lynne, but I didn't want to interrupt such a good interview with research updates that have been detailed here in the past and will be again.

I'm pretty sure that sleep information on elders had not been discovered yet in 1999 when the interview was done.

A fascinating speaker. I'm going to look for some of his books.
Thank you.

I wish the video had closed caption, but I did hear enough to want more of his wisdom. One word jumped out at me and it was VITALITY. I do not have that at all and I think he said a 90 year old can have vitality in memory (or something of that nature).

I guess that is one dissatisfaction I have with being old; I no longer feel vitality even after a good night's sleep. I can remember what it felt like to be energetic and plow into the day's chores with vigor. That never happens to me anymore and I miss that feeling.

Another point he made was waking up at 3 am. I do not have fears in the night, but I find my memory is working the best then. I suddenly remember the thing I had forgotten to do that day.

That waking up in the night thing?

My mom keeps a small battery radio handy for when she can't sleep or she wakes up in the middle of the night.

She puts the little radio under her pillow and listens to all kinds of talk, music, advice shows.

I like this idea.

Seniors are smart cookies.

I have been reading Hillman's books for many, many years and always find his deep and inspiring. Thank you for the video, my admiration increases.

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