1934: Life Begins at Forty

Well, here I am, on the eve of my 40th birthday, contemplating things such as oh, the last 39.999 years of my life. I can’t believe my thirties are over. Seems like only yesterday that I was starting out young and fresh at the Library of Congress, 10 years ago last month. Time flies!

To help celebrate my 40th, I of course had to turn to my books. I’ve been saving this book for this day. It’s called Life Begins at 40, written by Walter B. Pitkin. The only downside is that the subject headers in the catalog for this include “middle age” (I don’t know if I’m ready to think of myself in those terms) — but then again the subjects also include “success” — so I guess I shouldn’t nitpick too much. In any case, here’s a taste of Pitkin’s view of 40.

High excitements lie ahead of you now turning forty. The race has nibbled the fruits of wisdom and found them both sweet and sustaining. Thus far it has turned to account almost nothing of its inventions and discoveries. The world is still to be civilized; and, in your day, this supreme process will begin. Were you to be no more than idle spectators, all other ages, past and future, would envy you. But you will be more than that; you will eat the meat of giants and overtop all of your ancestors. You will soon look through a 200-inch telescope and scan the back yards of the moon as if they were at the bottom of a little hill. You will remodel your frames and your temperaments with cunningly concocted foods and pills. You will have little cause to worry over the price of clothes and rent. Or, if you do not live to see such wonders, you will at least behold them drawing near — which, of itself, will be a wonder. . . . Yes, you are the luckiest of all. Life begins at forty — now more richly than ever before, and perhaps as richly as ever again.

Gosh, forty sounds a bit kooky based on this description. Wish me luck!