Middle Age : Art of Living
Middle age, a time when the body is both at a peak and at the beginning of collapse, marks, for many, a period for radical reappraisal of one’s life and way of living. The sense of time running out can lead to a period of dramatic self doubt. In Middle Age, the philosopher Christopher Hamilton explores the moods, emotions and experiences of middle age, seeking to describe and analyse that period of life philosophically. Drawing on the experience of his own epiphanic “mid-life crisis” as well as a range of writers – from Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, to Larkin and Eliot – Hamilton presents a thought-provoking and candid analysis of the nature of middle age.
In a compelling narrative, Hamilton explores many of the themes of mid life – nostalgia, the loss of one’s youth, the giving up of plans, restlessness, feelings of self-doubt, guilt, regret, loneliness, the search for identity, the sense that life has become boring or has ground to a halt, and the heightened awareness of the compromised nature of life. Yet, although the picture Hamilton paints is bleak, it is not without hope. Middle age is shown to bring its own melancholic wisdom: having gained some distance from a youthful sense of our own importance, it is a time that offers us a position from which we can value the sheer spectacle of life and appreciate its small pleasures. And it is in mid life that, in coming to see the ways in which we are each inadequate, ridiculous, or hopeless, and in realizing the necessity of coming to terms with the kind of person we are, we are able to become more tolerant of ourselves and of those around us.
In revealing his own struggle to make sense of the emotions that mid life can bring, Hamilton provides fascinating and uncompromising insights into the essence of middle age, a time when, as Orwell wrote, we all have the face we deserve.
Middle Age is offered as a rumination on the mezzo del cammin di nostra vita in all its guises: the autumnal ripeness of the self, the onset of physical decay, the failure to achieve what you dreamed of, the sense of having become a character you never chose to become these calm lucubrations, a quite different book is bursting out, like the lupine snouts bursting through of the faces of the periwigged nobles in The Company of Wolves. Actually Mr Hamilton tells you on page one about the terrible thing that happened to him, that blew apart his family and derailed his life and skewed his personality and probably scuppered his marriage, six years ago. But it's only when you read on that you discover, in between the calmly objective discussions about Nostalgia or Success, how intense is his long howl of rage and dismay that human beings can treat their supposed nearest and dearest like this. You realise you're holding in your hand a new genre the philosophical misery memoir. The Independent
There is much to provoke the reader's reflections, and a good deal of it is liable to make one feel uncomfortable . . . there is an admirable depth of self-exploration here, a relentless striving for honesty, and the eloquent expression of a sensibility that recognizes not only the crud and filth of human existence, but also its joys and delights. International Journal of Philosophical Studies
A rich and intricate web of personal experience and philosophical reflection, which shows how middle age grittily reveals what has been there all along: the compromised nature of life; Eisteach: Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy
Christopher Hamilton is Senior Lecturer in Philosophy of Religion at King's College London.
Weight and lightness
Flesh and blood
A final thought