Correction: According to Yogananda in Autobiography of a Yogi the woman pictured above, Shakari Mai Jiew, is the one who was 112 in 1938.  Thanks to Judy for the heads up.


Aging is about stratagems plus the overview.  My stratagems are Denial, Disguise and (to paraphrase Jefferson) “Eternal Hostility” against every form of aging known to womankind.  I think of aging as itself a sort of disguise thrown over the girl one really is – disguise that, if some reports are to be believed, we throw off once we reach the Other Side.  What appeals to me about Shankari  Mai Jiew, pictured above, is her answer to aging: don’t do it.

What are we fighting to maintain?  Our real self?  Wouldn’t that be better safeguarded by being open and unconcealed about the number of one’s years?  If unconcealedness is so great, why do we feel that the woman who tries to prise out the exact number is not our friend?  Anyway, I lean the other way. The women in my family have been lying about their age for three generations.

That said, where Time has brought definite losses, the person who fits herself into her landscape, as it contracts, seems to age with more grace and less complaint.

The right balance would take in both these polarities.  “Giving up” seems premature and wrong, though that’s not the same as accepting the end of a tale when it’s imminent.

A Chinese acupuncturist told me that the day of one’s death is fixed at birth, but the way one lives is not fixed.  He also said, if I wanted youthful skin, I should do 300 right-handed, circular tummy rubs, with ten going from outside in, and then alternating, the next ten circular rubs going from inside out.  For the extra-young effect, do it another 300x with the left hand.  Wear loose clothing while doing this.  His own skin looked like a baby’s bottom and he was eighty.

What’s the secret of aging?  A wise, older friend told me that what I had suffered in youth meant that I would always be older than my age-mates, but would look younger.  What does that mean?  One has to make Time one’s friend.  Socratic dialectic, which identifies one’s views so as to see when they collide with reality or with each other, makes a friend of Time.  This is facing the lessons of experience square on.

So, dialectic and tummy rubs.

About Abigail

Abigail Rosenthal is Professor Emerita of Philosophy, Brooklyn College of CUNY. She is the author of A Good Look at Evil, a Pulitzer Prize nominee, now available in an expanded, revised second edition and as an audiobook. Its thesis is that good people try to live out their stories while evil people aim to mess up good people’s stories. Her next book, Confessions of a Young Philosopher, forthcoming and illustrated, provides multiple illustrations from her own life. She writes a weekly column for her blog, “Dear Abbie: The Non-Advice Column” (www.dearabbie-nonadvice.com) where she explains why women's lives are highly interesting. She’s the editor of the posthumously published Consolations of Philosophy: Hobbes’s Secret; Spinoza’s Way by her father, Henry M. Rosenthal. Some of her articles can be accessed at https://brooklyn-cuny.academia.edu/AbigailMartin . She is married to Jerry L. Martin, also a philosopher. They live in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
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4 Responses to “Aging”

  1. Hi Abigail
    I’m gonna start today
    Does the belly have to be empty when we do the rubs?
    Bedtime , 2 hours after a meal is OK?
    Thanks Much

  2. Helen says:

    Please clarify the tummy rub, inside /outside, you wrote circular so I don’t understand which is inside and which is outside.

    Thank you

    • Abigail says:

      Thank you, Helen, for the good question. Start at the outer rim of the belly & move your right hand in a clockwise motion toward the navel for ten circles, then go the other way, counterclockwise, moving your hand in concentric circles outward for ten circles. (Or you could start at the navel and move to the outer rim. It doesn’t matter.) Continue till you’ve done 300 circles. Dr. Shen, my acupuncturist of that time, added that one could expand the exercise to do 300 more circles with the left hand, but I found that this was more than I had time for. I still do 300, however, first thing in the morning. I drink a glass of water beforehand, so as to incorporate a massage to the digestive system as well. All the best to you.

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