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Thursday, July 15, 2010

"Forty: The Age and the Symbol"

by Stanley Brandes, 1985, 126p, rating=2.5

The thing about non-fiction is that it often contains a whole slew of factual information.  This essay is no different and so the read can be tedious ... and boring.  Well, having just passed the age forty mark, I was interested in what Mr. Brandes had to say.  Basically, he ventured to discuss the significance of the number and age of forty by referencing from literature, religion, and cultures.  I found his four facets of forty interesting:  (1) as representing many (eg. forty-faced liar, forty to the dozen); (2) as a self-contained unit of time and space (eg. Flood lasted forty days and forty nights, Lent is approx. forty days); (3) as symbolizing birth or renewal (eg. Arab legend says God made Adam out of clay and let him dry for forty days, Western view of 6wks postpartum recovery--roughly forty days); and (4) as signaling a period of transition (eg. notion of mid-life crisis at age forty).

I like the book's summation so I will share it now:
"His conclusion?  The mid-life crisis, like that of adolescence, is a cultural invention.  It becomes more evident and real as people increasingly believe in its existence.  Yet there may be change ahead.  For centuries, Brandes notes, forty was considered the beginning of old age.  Recently it has come to signify the middle years.  Soon people may regard forty as an advanced stage of youth."
This book is 25 years old, so the above statement of recently is now also 25 years old so do you think we're at the point as to regard forty as an advanced stage of youth?  Perhaps so as many are saying now ... forty is the new thirty ... forty is the new twenty.  Plus I might add the development of "cougars", older women going after much younger men. 

I can't say that I had a mid-life crisis when I turned forty years old.  I did feel the anxiety of turning forty and felt the want to accomplish something in this decade.  I don't want to be in the cougar attitude of wanting to feel that kind of young but rather bask in the mature progress of middle age.  So I can honestly say, I like the age I am in now and look forward to seriously building a legacy that is honorable and true. 

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