In her remarkable book The Coming of Age, Simone de Beauvoir insists upon looking unflinchingly at old age. Among other things, she quotes famous artists and thinkers who likewise wrote honestly about what it is like to grow old; I’ll be sharing these on the blog from time to time. This one comes from from Michelangelo, who lived to be 88, long enough to experience his physical body breaking down while his artistic vision remained.
My long drawn out labors have broken, undermined and dismembered me, and the inn to which I am travelling, the inn at whose common table I shall eat and drink, is death…I cage a buzzing wasp in a leathery bag full of bones and sinews, and I have three balls of cobbler’s wax in a tube. My face is a scarecrow’s. I am like those rags they hang out in times of draught and that frighten away the birds. A spider runs about in one of my ears and in the other a cricket chirps all night. Weighed down by my catarrh I can neither sleep nor snore.