There’s an old joke, popular with nerds like me:
There are only 10 kinds of people in the world:
Those who know binary, and those who do not.
Very true, but hardly helpful if you don’t know binary. The joke depends on the fact that in binary notation, “10” is actually 2 in the more normal decimal numbering.
I won’t try to teach binary numbers here. It’s actually pretty cool; you can count to a thousand on your fingers, impress your friends. There’s a good Wikipedia article here.
In the human world, it seems to me that there are two ways we can age.
1. We can turn inward, mourning our lost youth, focusing on our own increasing decrepitude, fearful of our impending demise.
2. We can accept the facts, turn outward, help those around us to enjoy their own salad days.
It’s a matter of how one looks at the world, and sad to say that after a lifetime of habits, far too many of us just go on doing what we’ve always done.
As we learnt in a previous blog post, “the one necessary ingredient in every successful joke is a sudden alteration in point of view”.
I see altering our point of view as often as possible the key to learning and developing in the world, rather than growing stale and selfish.
So humour keeps our minds flexible, our outlooks open, our lives joyful. Who do you want to be late in life? The sour old codger sitting glum in the corner, or the happy chap with an audience of children listening to jokes that are new and fresh – at least to them.
Of course, after a certain point it’s not the aches of the body that limit your enjoyment of the world so much as the limitations of the mind:
I went to dinner with my parents, who are getting on a bit, and after the main course, the women went into the kitchen to fetch dessert.
I said, “Dad, that’s a new perfume Mum is wearing, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” he said, “she got a bottle of some new brand.”
“I really like it,” I said. “I might get some for the wife. What’s it called?”
Dad thought for a bit, scratched his head, and asked, “What’s the name of that flower you give to someone you love, the one that is usually red that has thorns?”
“Oh, you mean a rose?”
“Yes, that’s it,” Dad said. Then he called to the kitchen, “Rose, what’s the name of that perfume you’re wearing?”