What We Gain as We Grow Older: On Gelassenheit

Wilhelm Schmid, trans. from the German by Michael Eskin. Upper West Side Philosophers (SPD, dist.), $14.95 trade paper (138p) ISBN 978-1-935830-31-3
Philosopher Schmid (High on Low) instructs readers on the art of aging gracefully and contentedly by embracing gelassenheit, a German concept denoting a relaxed attitude. Schmid provides 10 steps toward “experiencing life’s plenitude and accepting its temporal limits,” including cultivating a “reverence for habit[s]” that make life more comfortable, accepting pain and tragedy as inevitable, and strengthening interpersonal relationships. He lists numerous advantages to advanced age, including a wealth of life experience to draw from, fond memories to reflect on, and the “universal right to be passive” and even occasionally sad. On a metaphysical level, Schmid recommends mindfulness, a “wholehearted trust in life,” and, for the sake of “peace with our own finitude,” belief in the continuation of one’s existence after death. This can be interpreted as an immortal energy that carries on in the absence of our physical existence, or as a more traditional belief in an afterlife. Schmid’s counsel is wise and he does not avoid the difficult topics, particularly admirable when conversations around aging and death often remain taboo. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 11/09/2015
Release date: 02/01/2016
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