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Bertrand Russell - How to Grow Old 汉译

2014-05-29    来源:网络    【      美国外教 在线口语培训
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How to Grow Old

Bertrand Russell

In spite of the title, this article will really be on how not to grow old, which, at my time of life, is a much more important subject. My first advice would be to choose your ancestors carefully. Although both my parents died young, I have done well in this respect as regards my other ancestors. My maternal grandfather, it is true, was cut off in the flower of his youth at the age of sixty-seven, but my other three grandparents all lived to be over eighty. Of remoter ancestors I can only discover one who did not live to a great age, and he died of a disease which is now rare, namely, having his head cut off. A great-grandmother of mine, who was a friend of Gibbon, lived to the age of ninety-two, and to her last day remained a terror to all her descendants. My maternal grandmother, after having nine children who survived, one who died in infancy, and many miscarriages, as soon as she became a widow, devoted herself to woman’s higher education. She was one of the founders of Girton College, and worked hard at opening the medical profession to women. She used to relate how she met in Italy an elderly gentleman who was looking very sad. She inquired the cause of his melancholy and he said that he had just parted from his two grandchildren. “Good gracious”, she exclaimed, “I have seventy-two grandchildren, and if I were sad each time I parted from one of them, I should have a dismal existence!” “Madre snaturale,” he replied. But speaking as one of the seventy-two, I prefer her recipe. After the age of eighty she found she had some difficulty in getting to sleep, so she habitually spent the hours from midnight to 3 a.m. in reading popular science. I do not believe that she ever had time to notice that she was growing old. This, I think, is proper recipe for remaining young. If you have wide and keen interests and activities in which you can still be effective, you will have no reason to think about the merely statistical fact of the number of years you have already lived, still less of the probable brevity of you future.

As regards health I have nothing useful to say since I have little experience of illness. I eat and drink whatever I like, and sleep when I cannot keep awake. I never do anything whatever on the ground that it is good for health, though in actual fact the things I like doing are mostly wholesome.

Psychologically there are two dangers to be guarded against in old age. One of these is undue absorption in the past. It does not do to live in memories, in regrets for the good old days, or in sadness about friends who are dead. One’s thoughts must be directed to the future and to things about which there is something to be done. This is not always easy: one’s own past is gradually increasing weight. It is easy to think to oneself that one’s emotions used to be more vivid than they are, and one’s mind more keen. If this is true it should be forgotten, and if it is forgotten it will probably not be true.

The other thing to be avoided is clinging to youth in the hope of sucking vigor from its vitality. When your children are grown up they want to live their own lives, and if you continue to be as interested in them as you were when they were young, you are likely to become a burden to them, unless they are unusually callous. I do not mean that one should be without interest in them, but one’s interest should be contemplative and, if possible, philanthropic, but not unduly emotional. Animals become indifferent to their young as soon as their young can look after themselves, but human beings, owing to the length of infancy, find this difficult.

I think that a successful old age is easiest for those who have strong impersonal interests involving appropriate activities. It is in this sphere that long experience is really fruitful, and it is in this sphere that the wisdom born of experience can be exercised without being oppressive. It is no use telling grown-up children not to make mistakes, both because they will not believe you, and because mistakes are an essential part of education. But if you are one of those who are incapable of impersonal interests, you may find that your life will be empty unless you concern yourself with your children and grandchildren. In that case you must realize that while you can still render them material service, such as making them an allowance or knitting them jumpers, you must not expect that they will enjoy your company.

Some old people are oppressed by the fear of death. In the young there is a justification for this feeling. Young men who have reason to fear that they will be killed in battle may justifiably feel bitter in the thought that they have been cheated of the best things that life has to offer. But in an old man who has known human joys and sorrows, and has achieved whatever work it was in him to do, the fear of death is somewhat abject and ignoble. The best way to overcome it — so at least it seems to me — is to make your interests gradually wider and more impersonal, until bit by bit the walls of the ego recede, and your life becomes increasingly merged in the universal life. An individual human existence should be like a river — small at first, narrowly contained within its banks, and rushing passionately past rocks and over waterfalls. Gradually the river grows wider, the banks recede, the waters flow more quietly, and in the end, without any visible break, they become merged in the sea, and painlessly lose their individual being. The man who, in old age, can see his life in this way, will not suffer from the fear of death, since the things he cares for will continue. And if, with the decay of vitality, weariness increases, the thought of rest will not be unwelcome. I should wish to die while still at work, knowing that others will carry on what I can no longer do and content in the thought that what was possible has been done.



题目虽然这样写,实际上本文所要谈的却是人怎样才可以不老。对于像我这样年纪的人来说,这个问题就更是重要得多了。我的头一条忠告是,你可得要挑选好你的先人啊。我的父母年纪轻轻就去世了,可是说到祖辈,我还是选得不错的。我外祖父固然是在风华正茂之年就弃世了,当时他只有六十七岁,但是我的祖父、祖母和外祖母却都活到了八十岁以上。再往远一点说,在我的先人之中,我发现只有一个活得不长,他得了一种现在已经不多见的病,那就是,头让人砍掉了。我的一位曾祖母,和吉本是朋友,活到了九十二岁,她直到临终都使儿孙望而生畏。我外祖母有九个孩子活了下来,有一个孩子很小就死了,她还流产过多次。丈夫一死,她就致力于女子高等教育。她是戈登学院的创办人之一,曾竭力使医学专业对妇女开放。她常对人说,她在意大利碰到过一位愁容满面的先生,就问他为什么闷闷不乐,他说两个小孙孙刚刚离开他?“我的天哪!”我外祖母就说,“我的孙子孙女有七十二个,要是每离开一个都要难过,我的生活可就太痛苦了。”听了这话,老先生竟说,“Madre snaturale”(意大利语,意思是:“这个做母亲的真怪呀!”——译注)但是我作为七十二人中的一员,倒是赞成她的办法的。她过了八十以后,常睡不着觉,所以从午夜到凌晨三点总要读些科普读物。我相信她从来没有功夫去注意自己是不是在日益衰老。我认为,要想永葆青春,这是最好的办法。你要是有广泛的爱好和强烈的兴趣,而且还有能力参加一些活动,你就没有理由去考虑自己已经活了多少岁这样的具体数字,更没有理由去考虑自己的余年大概是很有限的了。





(庄绎传 译)

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