Some years ago, I bookmarked a column article titled "My Guide to Old Age" written by Brian Aldiss for the Guardian back in 2006. It was not that I was or am - but for everyone the time will come one day - old enough to need the consultation myself but that, as an octogenarian, he gave an insight in one spot which human nature is rooted in.
Which is love.
As you read along the article, you may see that threading through his tips is the theme of love. The love of life, of reading, of exploring around, of the awaking hours and, the most important of all, the love shown by and towards his woman.
He wrote in the middle part of the article before turning to the inconveniences of old age, "Many people feel old at 30. I still feel young in spirit. And there is a great abounding reason for that, though she has begged me not to mention her name. She is just the most empathic, intelligent, adorable woman I have had the luck to meet. My winter sunshine."
Wow, winter sunshine. If feeling has a colour, this has to be glowing with warmth in a golden cast.
The notion that we need love is so obviously important and unmistakeably comprehensible that seeing people being unable to be consistently stimulated by the abstract noun "love" is mind-boggling. In most cases, what we let consistently stimulate ourselves is not love but the feeling patronised by our emotions. We love who and what we find lovable, listen to who and what pleases us and react in a likewise fashion. These are the least qualities to be called love, just as crème brulee with salt is not what crème brulee is supposed to be.
Love has a recipe too. While ours are different as we may not share the same taste, there are some universal ingredients, of which one is broad-mindedness. Love is not compatible with egoism, just as we don’t use salt for crème brulee. Regrettably, and metaphorically, for the matter of love, this is the wrong thing we have been doing and we may even have added salt into the cup of expresso that comes with the crème brulee.
It is exactly because adulterating love with egoism is intrinsic to our nature that we need to consciously scale down our ego when going about earthly matters, including love, and especially love. Otherwise, be prepared that at the end of winter there may still be no sunshine heaving into sight, be the sun a person or a personal endeavour.
If I can add an effective tip about clipping the ego, I would say, at least mind your words. Very often we infuriate with and are infuriated by words, the remote control to activate our ego. George Eliot put this point cleverly in her Adam Bede, "Examine your words well, and you will find that even when you have no motive to be false, it is a very hard thing to say the exact truth, even about your own immediate feelings -- much harder than to say something fine about them which is not the exact truth." Put it the other way round, show tolerance towards what others are saying. They are probably putting down the words in a way not exactly as what they mean.
Such a flair in intelligently illustrating facts and feelings is what gives me the greatest pleasure of reading. In the same measure, Brian vividly illustrates an inconvenience of aging and his feeling on the prospect of passing away in the ending paragraphs of his guide to old age:
"I require spasms of sleep during the day. I will be sitting in an armchair, perhaps watching television or perhaps reading - at present it is the TLS and John Heilpern's magnificent biography of John Osborne - and I fall asleep. At least, that is what I call it. But, like those unfortunates caught on the wrong side of the Sittang Bridge when it blew, I find myself on the wrong side of consciousness. I have entirely blanked out.
Perhaps I come back to myself after half an hour. I am astonished. And I reflect that a time may come when I blank out for good, there in the armchair, Heilpern's book unfinished on my knee. Be warned, darling!
This marvellous, unique lifetime will be over. But what an easy way to go ..."