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Bertrand Russell


A brilliant British mathematician, scientist, philosopher and essayist, Bertrand Arthur William Russell (1872-1970) received in 1950 the Nobel Prize for literature. All his life he was a pacifist and an active opponent of the atom bomb. Because of his strong opposition to the war of 1914-18 he was dismissed from Cambridge University and sent to prison. He wrote and lectured a great deal on science, sociology, psychology and the history of philosophy. In all his writings he had the gift of making even difficult subjects clear and interesting.


How to Grow Old
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The other thing to be avoided is clinging to youth in the hope of sucking vigour 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 grownup 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 realise that while you can still render them material services, 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 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.



clinging to youth: holding firmly (adherirse a la juventud)
(absorber, aspirar)
are grown up:
have become adults
(han crecido, son adultos)
callous: emotionally hardened
(emocionalmente insensibles)
become indifferent to:
lose interest in (pierden interés en)
impersonal interests:
that do not depend on our relations with other people. A hobby such as gardening or photography, would be an impersonal interest (preocupaciones impersonales)
It is no use: it is in vain
(es inútil, no sirve de nada)
concern yourself with:
you are busy about (te preocupes de)
making them an allowance:
giving them some money
(pasarles algo de dinero)
rightly, with reason (justificadamente)
cheated of:
wrongly deprived of (erróneamente privados de)
it was in him to do:
he had the ability to do (que logró realizar)

the walls of the ego recede: the person becomes less self-centred (los muros que encierran al yo retroceden, la persona se vuelve menos egocéntrica)
narrowly contained:
because the banks of a river are close together (estrechamente limitada)
sloping lands to both sides of a river
this is a human emotion applied to the river (apasionadamente)
interval, pause (pausa, intervalo)
without any pain (sin dolor)
the fear of death:
being afraid of dying (el temor a la muerte)
he cares for:
that he is interested in (que él estima, que le interesan)
gradual decrease
loss of strength and energy
(la fatiga)
while still at work:
while I am in activity
(en plena actividad)
will carry on:
will continue (continuarán)
I can no longer do:
I am not able to do anymore
(yo ya no puedo hacer)


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