What We Gain as We Grow Older - Book and Contest
Wednesday, 10 February 2016
That is the title of a new book by German philosopher Wilhelm Schmid. I quoted from it last June when I wrote about the value of habit; Schmid includes an entire chapter on that.
I was reading an advance copy then and told you that when an English translation became available in the U.S., I would let you know. That time has arrived.
The subtitle of the book is “On Gelassenheit” and the definition of that word is critical to enjoying this lovely little book. Schmid begins by explaining that there is no directly equivalent word in English. It combines, he says, such meanings as serenity, equanimity, mellowness, calmness, tranquility and other related ideas.
The goal of his book, translated into English by Michael Eskin, is to show us how to bypass the ageist, forever-young culture that diminishes every one of us (yes, in Germany too) when we cross that invisible threshold into old age, and by aspiring to gelassenheit, live with and embrace growing old.
”It may actually be the case,” writes Schmid in the preface, “that gelassenheit only becomes possible as we grow older.
“After all, it is easier to be gelassen when no longer everything is at stake, when our hormones are no longer raging, when we have a lifetime's worth of experience, a broadened outlook and a time-tested sense for people and things to rely on.”
Toward this end, Schmid provides us with 10 lessons in 10 chapters that are thoughtful, inspiring, enjoyable, educational and fun.
I wouldn't be writing about this book if it were not all those things and more - Schmid and I agree on almost everything about ageing and I'm eager to share some of it with you.
As old hands at this blog know, I do not review books. I write about ones I like and this time, it makes sense to let Schmid do the talking.
He quickly walks us through the first three quarters of life and then discusses the final one, pulling no punches. Like me, many of you will be familiar with items in this passage:
”I myself tend to impatiently hurry past the elderly on the street, they are simply too slow for a 'junior senior' like me...I simply cannot imagine that before long I will be one of them...
“But I have also noticed of late that I have taken to keeping my hand close to the banister when walking up and down stairs, on the off chance that I might trip...
“I fumble in my pockets for keys that I never put there...I now have to hold the newspaper at arm's length...
“A hearing aid? Never! I don't mind no longer hearing everything – in fact, it is a relief not to have to respond to everything all the time.
“What is annoying though, is the impatience of those around me, who begrudge me this newfound freedom.”
There are joys in old age, explains Schmid, humble pleasures we hardly took time to appreciate in the hubbub of youth and middle age. The smell of freshly mown grass, a good cup of coffee, a glass of wine. Memories to be indulged in too and written down for oneself and others. Along with sex and conversation:
”...our libido changes with age: the length we used to go to placate our raging hormones is something we no longer understand, jumping each other doesn't happen that often anymore...
“...which means that sex could finally be purely a medium of communication, inspiration and exultation. More and more, though, conversation takes over that role.”
Yes. I didn't know that has been happening to me until I read that passage. Schmid continues:
”Our waning potency can be elegantly glossed over: 'I'm just not interested in it anymore!' Certainly there are pills that will reignite desire, but do we really want this if it doesn't happen on its own?...
“Sex becoming less important may even contribute to more relaxed friendships between the sexes.”
I'll attest to that.In another chapter, Schmid takes on the related issue of touch, that although we don't discuss it much, it is a source of energy and strength throughout our lives but the opportunity for it diminishes in old age.
”The truth is: our culture, which promotes and idolizes the fragrant and unblemished complexion, turns old people into 'untouchables', as though touching them would lead to 'contracting' old age and consequently, death.”
Hardly anyone touches old people and as I related here in the past, touch is so powerful that when I booked a massage to help alleviate the lack of touch in my life, it was all I could do to not burst into tears in relief - it felt so good.
Schmid suggests massage as an antidote to so little touch in elders' lives along with the company of pets and paying attention to the touch of water in the shower or when swimming, etc. But he returns then to conversation, to enriching our spirits and our souls with this other kind of touch that contributes to gelassenheit:
”... the touch of minds in thought. When we engage in conversation, for instance, we are touched by others' thoughts and can in turn touch them with our thoughts.
“And not only in conversatioin, but in silence as well: thoughts can be exchanged without a single word being uttered.”
I have hardly scratched the surface of this engaging and, I think, important little books. “Little” because it measures only about four inches by seven inches but is packed with intelligence, compassion and learning.What We Gain as We Grow Older: On Gelassenheit is available at bricks-and-mortar book shops, the usual online book purveyors and the American publisher, Upper West Side Philosophers, Inc., has made five copies available to give away to TGB readers.
As in the past, we will do a random drawing. Here's how it goes:
Leave a message in the comments section below (no emails). That's it. If you have something to say about What We Gain as We Grow Older, that's good – we like lively discussions here - but not required.
The only requirement is that you state your interest in winning one of the books. “Please enter me in the drawing,” works. Or typing, "Me, me, me" will do it, too. I'm not fussy.
The contest will close tomorrow night, 11 February 2016, at midnight U.S. Pacific standard time. The five winners will be chosen in a random, electronic drawing and their names will be announced on this blog on Friday 12 February 2016.
Ronni, I am definitely interested in reading this book. I will also promote it to my friends.
Posted by: Pilgrim | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 05:37 AM
I would like a copy of this book, please.
Posted by: Cam | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 05:55 AM
You had me at "...sex and conversation." I need to read this book.
Posted by: Pamela Causey | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 05:56 AM
I'd love a copy of this book--sounds great (and yes, you had me, too, at "sex and conversation").
Posted by: Lynn | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 06:03 AM
Me too! I'd love a copy of this book. Thanks for entering me!
Posted by: Still the Lucky Few | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 06:07 AM
Well of course I want a copy of this book. I need all the help I can get on this journey! Dee :)
Posted by: Dee | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 06:11 AM
And there's more time to read, as I read this around 6:00 am. I would like to read this book. Thanks
Posted by: Doug | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 06:12 AM
Yes, me too.
It sounds like at 82 , just what I would like to read.
Posted by: Emmy Abrahams | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 06:13 AM
I'd cherish this little book.
Yes please include me in the draw.
LOVE your blog Ronni.
Thank you :)
Posted by: Gillian | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 06:26 AM
The part about "touch." I hadn't given that any thought, but a good massage would be just the ticket! I've sometimes thought of that--a fear of "catching" old age through contact. This book sounds wonderful, please add me to the drawing.
Posted by: Marge | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 06:51 AM
I would love to read this book.
Posted by: Jeanie Valentine | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 06:52 AM
Yes, indeed - I'd love to have a copy.
Posted by: Ann | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 06:55 AM
Please enter me in the contest - I feel like I need all the help I can get...in this journey of growing old.
Posted by: Sally | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 07:01 AM
Please enter me in this drawing.
I think the book sounds fascinating and helpful. I didn't know the word glassen, but I have been struggling towards it.
Posted by: PatM | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 07:08 AM
would love to have the book
Posted by: Evelyn Boos | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 07:45 AM
Count me in
Posted by: Barbara Sistler | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 07:49 AM
Would very much appreciate the opportunity to read this book.
Posted by: Deborah | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 07:49 AM
I guess Gelassenheit is why I'd never want to trade who I am now with who I was when I was young. I regret that my body and mind are falling apart, but I feel my soul is going through a peak experience. (And I'm an atheist, so I use the word soul in a secular sense.)
Posted by: Jim Harris | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 07:54 AM
Sounds like a terrific book. Please count me in on the lottery. (Does that also include affordable housing?
Posted by: ag | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 07:56 AM
I can't refuse the possibility of a free book, and this one is an excellent one for our 55+ club house library.
The anticipation of the outcome of the drawing gives these snowed in days a bit of suspense and bearability, here at the end of the confinement.
Posted by: S C Jones | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 07:57 AM
Please include me. Thank you.
Posted by: Arleen Mendicino | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 07:58 AM
I just checked both libraries in my area, and neither has the book. I will definitely suggest they get more than one copy because this is a very senior area.
Please enter me in the drawing.
Posted by: Joyce | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 08:00 AM
Please enter me in the drawing -- and thank you for making this available to us!
Posted by: Diane | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 08:03 AM
I am in The Netherlands for a week and coincidently I saw the original of that cover painting yesterday!
The book sounds interesting and I would like to be entered into the drawing.
Thanks as always,
Posted by: Leze | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 08:12 AM
Love how you share your favorite books with us Ronni. I'll be getting this book to use in classes and workshops that a friend and fellow educator is working on with me - all about aging. I'm the old one and she's the middle aged one and is a joy to work with.
And loved Jim Harris's comment here! Perfect drop of Wisdom.
Posted by: Susan | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 08:14 AM
This book sounds as if it has a lot of wisdom in its pages. I'd love to have a free copy. Please do enter me, and thanks for writing about it.
Posted by: Sulibran | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 08:18 AM
I would love a chance to receive a copy of the book - thank you for offering this - and for the excellent description of the book!
Posted by: Scotti | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 08:29 AM
Please include me in the drawing .... thanks
Posted by: clairejean | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 08:34 AM
I'd love to win this little treasure
Posted by: Eileen Riordan | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 08:34 AM
I always wonder about people who say that they are enjoying old age, or find getting old pleasurable, or glad they have reached some sort of mellow maturity. How many of them, if given a magic button that would return them to their youth, would not hesitate to push it.
Posted by: Bruce Cooper | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 08:37 AM
Yes, please enter me in the contest. The book sounds delightful.
Posted by: Nancy Wick | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 08:41 AM
Yes, please include me also in the drawing. Thank you!
Posted by: Terre | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 08:46 AM
oh, dear, once again my comment just disappeared into the aether. Maybe I went on too long. So, to sum up and to bring a historical element into this:
German women, from the middle class or above, were greatly complimented for being "gelassen" in the 18th century. A literary historian I know has translated the word as "passionlessness." What I found in my 19th-century work on German women, though, was that the word began to lose its sexlessness: a heroine of a novel, for example, is called "gelassen" -- but her bright red hair, mentioned repeatedly, sort of changes that picture, and we feel sex creeping in.
But now Schmid has expanded the term way beyond gender and age, and I think that's great! He is thereby pushing the meaning, stretching it out, including all ages and both [all?] sexes, and that is most welcome.
I am eager to read this, but I think I'll get out the German original from our university library. If they have it.. I will urge them to buy it if they don't.
Posted by: Ruth-Ellen B. Joeres | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 08:50 AM
Yes--me too and I know my 95 y.o. mother would be interested!
Posted by: Nana Royer | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 08:51 AM
This book sounds intriguing! Loved the parts you picked out -- and had to laugh, because I schedule massages sometimes to get people to touch me, too!
Have been enjoying your blog for a while, but this is my first comment.
Posted by: blogqueendiane | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 08:53 AM
I hope I don't have to pronounce "gelassenheit" to be eligible for the drawing, because I'd love to have a copy of this book. Please include me in the drawing.
Posted by: PiedType | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 08:54 AM
I'm in the process of moving from Florida back north (I know most people move in the opposite direction) and am staying with my daughter and her family until the moving van arrives. Yesterday I gave my 16-year-old daughter a hug simply because I wanted to experience touch, and she was somewhere between puzzled and appalled. I nearly cried. time to book a massage! Yes, I'd love a copy of the book.
Posted by: Jean Gogolin | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 08:59 AM
Please enter me into the drawing. The title alone intrigues me, hopefully will counteract the current feelings of loss.
Posted by: Jackie Davis | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 09:01 AM
Yes yes yes! Me me me!
I'm working on a project right now about old people (over 90) living alone in small towns. I NEED this book!
Posted by: Liz LaFarge | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 09:03 AM
WOW! I really want one of these books. It will help me as I minister to the elderly in my church (of course, I am elderly as well...74 years old). Thank you for your site!
Posted by: Barbara Z. Johnston | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 09:03 AM
Yes, please enter me in the contest, even though I won the last one. Thanks.
Posted by: David R. Newman | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 09:14 AM
..I want to see what this little gem has to say to a 75 years old gay guy, who doesn't at all feel "elderly" I wonder what it would say to my lesbian lady friends!
Posted by: David Cardenas | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 09:20 AM
I would love to read the book and will look for it over here. I envy my German friends (and your reader from Germany who wrote so eloquently about US politics recently) being able to read it in the original.
Actually, I would like to ask YOU, Ronni, to seriously consider/look into the possibility of putting your posts in a book. There are so many that are worth re-reading and re-reading and though I have bookmarked many, it would be lovely to have a Ronni book by the side of my bed for perusal at all kinds of moments.
Thank you for everything you do for me.
Posted by: laura | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 09:40 AM
Yes, I'd love a copy...I read the intro on Amazon and it sounds down to earth and on the mark.
Posted by: Arby | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 09:42 AM
Please enter me in the drawing. Thanks.
Posted by: Richard Rodrigue | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 09:42 AM
I would love to read this book, so please enter me in the contest. I appreciate the offer from the publisher to give away five copies to your blog readers.
Posted by: Beth Backus | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 09:42 AM
Thanks for the review Ronnie. Please enter me in the drawing.
Posted by: Jan Heigh | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 10:00 AM
Me too, realy sounds like a book I could learn from.
Posted by: Millie Garfield | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 10:03 AM
Would be a great addition to my resources for groups I will be facilitating about the end stages of life and the choices they necessitate.
Posted by: Alice Claps | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 10:09 AM
I, too , would love a copy
Posted by: Gin | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 10:15 AM
Oh yes, me, me, me!
I've been trying to share my experiences as an aging person to my grandkids (as well as myself) and so will read this book even if I don't make the draw. I am pleased that they ask and will listen. It started when one of them asked why I moved slowly, and I realized that it was both physical and philosophical. I imagine reading this will broaden the conversation. Hopefully it will broaden their horizons as well. Our grandchildren are an opportunity to change how elders are viewed in our family as well as our society. And as they change so will the culture.
Posted by: Celia | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 10:15 AM
Me too. Count me in. Thanks!
Posted by: Anne | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 10:23 AM
Yes, please enter me. This looks like a wonderful, inspirational volume.
Posted by: Nancy Hutto | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 10:25 AM
I'm off to Amazon to order the book. Sounds like just what I need to get me out of the mood I'm been in lately.
Posted by: Jean R | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 10:25 AM
Would love to have a copy of this book! Thank you for the post.
Posted by: Susan | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 10:27 AM
My interest is personal and professional, I am a counselor and group facilitator for people of age. Back so long ago a birthday gift was "the joy of cooking". Someday I will put notes together for my book on "the joy of aging".
Posted by: Suzanne Baer | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 10:27 AM
I'd love a copy! Good luck to everyone.
Posted by: Wendl Kornfeld | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 10:27 AM
I was heading off to order the book but thought maybe, just maybe, I might win if I enter. Please enter me too. :-)
Posted by: DJan | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 10:31 AM
As another "junior senior", I could use all the help I can get as I proceed down the aging path. Please enter me in the drawing!
Posted by: Mary Wise | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 10:34 AM
I was particularly struck by the comment about getting a massage; to once again feel the touch of someone. It's so funny too because I have been looking into that lately....I thought this is crazy and I was not sure what was happening to me . I have felt that a massage is a luxury but lately I am seriously looking into to it and I would love to have one.
Posted by: Marie | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 10:46 AM
Me Me Me!
Posted by: Marcie | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 10:47 AM
Have you heard of Stitch? It's a companion site for folks over 50. Some people use it to date but there is strong support for folks getting together as a group to just do things. It was started by people in both the US and Australia. Check it out and let me know.
Posted by: Marcie | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 11:04 AM
I would love a copy of this book, Thanks for this...and all your great postings, Ronnie!
Posted by: Francie Link | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 11:05 AM
Having just ended a relationship with a man (78) who craved sex; the authors comments on the subject is spot-on. To this 74 year-old lady intimacy is so much more than multiply orgasms.
Posted by: jacqueline | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 11:08 AM
Regarding the above post...make that the "author's comments........"
Posted by: jacqueline | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 11:10 AM
The book sounds wonderful......I wondered what that mellow feeling was called!!!
Pick me. I would love a copy of the book.
Posted by: Diane | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 11:14 AM
I especially connected with the comment about touching. Giving more hugs to friends and family will be something I will be more intentional about doing. Would love a copy of the book.
Thanks so much
Posted by: Priscilla Wright | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 11:23 AM
The book sounds great. BTW massage is great the day BEFORE any surgery as it helps your body be more relaxed.
Posted by: Katherine | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 11:42 AM
With the exception of delivery men and handymen I hug everybody who comes in my front door. I didn't realize how much I missed being touched until it was pointed out to me that this may be why I hug so much.
So as Yogi Berra said, |"Include me in."
Posted by: Darlene | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 11:53 AM
Posted by: Jean Stoutmeyer | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 11:58 AM
Sounds like a fascinating book! I'd like to enter the contest.
Posted by: Anne | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 11:59 AM
Enter me please.
His thoughts mirror mine & I would love to read more.
Posted by: Susan Dolan-Laughlin | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 12:25 PM
I'm in- thanks!
Posted by: Kathy Zachary | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 12:26 PM
It's on my Amazon wish list as of 5 minutes ago. Please add my name to the list.
Posted by: Laura Crepeau | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 01:05 PM
THanks for including me in the contest!
Posted by: Barb Rogers | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 01:19 PM
Please enter me in the drawing.
Posted by: Diana H | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 01:22 PM
Me, Me, Me! Ronni, I had never heard the term " junior senior" and I'm sorry I didn't enjoy that status while I could. Alas , st 80 I am junior to no one. The book sounds great. If I am not a winner, I will budget for it.
Posted by: Fritzy Dean | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 01:32 PM
Of course, I would really enjoy a copy of the book. I seem to be reading more and more books about this process of growing older. Being 75 and still cognizant of the world around me makes me an expert in this field; doesn't it? Strangely enough, though I am a recognized expert in the field of my aging, I'm never treated that way...sigh...
Posted by: Steven | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 01:33 PM
Posted by: Demaris Hammond | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 01:51 PM
Waiting a long time for this! Hope I win.
Posted by: notdotdot | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 01:54 PM
Put me in the drawing, please. Thank you!
Posted by: Debbie | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 02:28 PM
Enter me please!!
I am one of those "junior seniors" and when I rush around the elderly, I always think to myself--- be gracious, you time is coming.
Also i think of a sad song I love --"Hello in There" by Joan Baez.
Posted by: victoria | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 02:38 PM
This sounds like a great title for my "older and wiser" book group to discuss. I would also recommend it for my fellow 'elder-mentors' in the Gerontology program at my local University.
Posted by: alice yucht | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 02:52 PM
This is beautiful. Add me to the contest. If I win, the book will be shared with my ninety year old mom and boomer sister.
Posted by: doctafill | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 02:53 PM
Yes, put me in the drawing.
Posted by: Patricia Jeffares | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 04:22 PM
I would love a copy of the book! A much needed guide to the rest of my life!
Posted by: Faith Finney | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 04:23 PM
I would like a copy of this book.
Posted by: Linda Kay Cunningham | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 04:45 PM
Please enter me in the drawing. I would enjoy reading this book.
Posted by: Carol Killian | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 04:46 PM
Wow - is this the highest of comment counts, Ronni?
Posted by: Simone | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 05:01 PM
Checked the library and it's not available yet. Please include me in the drawing. It sounds wonderful!
Posted by: Nancy | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 05:31 PM
Yes, I'd like a copy of this book.
Posted by: Ellen | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 05:37 PM
Another one who would like a copy of this book. It sounds delightful.
Posted by: Julie M | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 05:56 PM
Although I'm not in the frame of mind to embrace being old or any of the many "wonderful" things about it that I should be--but am SO not--appreciating at the moment, I'll enter a bid for the book. If I win I'll read and forward it to someone else who wanted it but didn't win (if they're willing to share their email and mailing address).
Posted by: Elizabeth Rogers | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 06:11 PM
Please enter me in the drawing.
Posted by: JJ | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 06:30 PM
Thank you for the opportunity to engage with this delightful book! Me me me!
Posted by: Zoolinda | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 06:43 PM
Oh yes, I'd love the book!
Posted by: Mary | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 07:31 PM
Posted by: Denny | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 07:51 PM
Pick me! Pick ME! It's my 69th Birthday in just a few days!
Posted by: Cat | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 10:39 PM
Please enter me in the book drawing. Thank you.
Posted by: Joanna | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 11:23 PM
I would love to have this book! Please enter me in the drawing.
Posted by: Margaret | Wednesday, 10 February 2016 at 11:52 PM