I don’t know where to start when attempting to describe the work of the late American Psychologist James Hillman, who has had a great inspirational effect on me. I learned of him a few years back though reading Thomas Moore’s work, a good deal of which has been influenced by Hillman.
Follow these mandates or grow old ungracefully. Not following these mandates simply increases the odds of becoming a burden. You don’t want to be confined to a miserable existence. It’s obvious that a healthy path will make you more alert and active—as well as a much happier and vibrant person overall.
While I have always been a highly introspective person, I never thought my introspection would grow more prominently into old age. I assumed (never assume) that by now – at 64 – I would have it all figured out and there would be less of a need to be looking inward and more of a desire to increasingly play cards with other people near or in retirement. Boy was I wrong!
As of late, my research has been dwelling on a close examination of what constitutes meaning in life, as professed by a good number of professional philosophers and psychologists. When you putz around articles and books on meaning, one person comes up more than anyone else: Viktor Frankl, author of Man’s Search for Meaning. First published in 1946, it’s required reading for anyone who wants to explore the topic of meaning in life.
For me, it’s not arguing anymore. As someone who has always enjoyed a good debate and has typically been fairly outspoken – respectful or otherwise – on anything, I think the time has come to be more of a passive observer. I say this because I doubt I have ever changed anyone’s mind through any kind of serious debate.
I have been following the psychology-based literature about transcendence in old age, with a close eye on the theory of gerotranscendence (GT), which has elements of self-transcendence and cosmic transcendence, as championed by Swedish Psychologist Lars Tornstam, who came up with the theory in the 1980s. I identify closely with Tornstam’s theory and have previously wrote about it. GT is a fascinating aging-related topic.