It’s the custom among mathematicians that when you reach age 60, you’re put on an ice floe with a day’s supply of walrus meat and set adrift.
But I’m not a mathematician.
Computer scientists get a few years’ grace. Because they count in binary, for them the dreaded end of productive intellectual life is put off until age 26.
I’m not a computer scientist either. I’m a writer. This is no dispensation, however; the literary world also worships precocity. Byron said it: “Is there anything in the future that can possibly console us for not being always twenty-five?” I took an even harder line in my own youth. At age 16, when I ran away from home to write a novel, I vowed that I would be a famous author by 22 or find an ice floe and make an end of it.
And today I am 60–1, and I find I am not yet quite ready to be set out to sea. I look back to the poets who seemed so intensely young when I was young, and I find they have aged well. Here’s George Herbert:
Could have recovered greennesse? It was gone
Quite under ground; as flowers depart
To see their mother-root, when they have blown;
Where they together
All the hard weather,
Dead to the world, keep house unknown.
. . .
And now in age I bud again,
After so many deaths I live and write;
I once more smell the dew and rain,
And relish versing: O my onely light,
It cannot be
That I am he
On whom thy tempests fell all night.