Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Ageless Soul: Book Review

Published October 10, 2017.
Many books about aging focus on the physical and financial dimensions of aging. Not many book-length works focus on the spiritual dimension of aging--or how the self transcends the vicissitudes of time.

Fortunately, Thomas Moore (b. 1940) wrote Ageless Soul: The Lifelong Journey Toward Meaning and Joy (St. Martin's Press, 2017).  

He has written 19 books, his most famous being The Care of the Soul (1992).

In Ageless Soul, Moore focuses on how older adults can transform the challenges of late life into opportunities to develop and express the most enduring element of our nature--our soul.  

"Aging is a challenge, not an automatic activity. You go through passages, from one state to another. You become somebody. Faced with a challenge, you choose to live through the obstacle rather than avoid it. You make the decision to be in process and to participate actively" (p. 285). 

Yes, Moore spent many years as a monk, but his book isn't squarely a work of devotional literature; it reads most often like a self-help book. 

His background in clinical psychology gives him a framework that appeals to a wide range of readers. He moves easily between reflection and storytelling as a way to illustrate his main point: aging provides unlimited possibilities.  

One of Moore's biggest influence is Carl Jung; consequently, the book discusses dreams, their use of archetypes, and the role of the shadow--the dark underbelly that people often suppress to the point of self-harm. 

The approach of the book mirrors that of his clinical practice, which he outlines on page 60:

1. Story: Listen closely to the stories of life.
2. Dreams: Track dreams to see the soul stuff and time line. 
3. Perspective: Express your own perspective, e.g., don't judge where the client judges himself.
4. Face the demons: Deal with issues that arise within yourself.
5. Spirituality: Be open to questions of ultimate meaning and mystery--the spiritual dimension. 

I was particularly invigorated by the way Moore looks at the issues such as depression, anger, changing sexuality, illness, and loneliness. He has entire chapters about each of these and other very human challenges. In each chapter, he redefines the issue, encourages people to directly face these challenges, and talks about how to scale each of these and how to find the positive value in each. 

For example, Moore himself defines his insular moods as melancholy instead of depression and sees the gifts that come through introversion, skepticism, and reflection. He does acknowledge that there is a difference between melancholy and clinical depression. However, Moore accepts that this slow-paced, low-energy, insular mood can bear fruit as long as it's balanced out with more action-oriented, social, and positive energy. 

"Melancholy is not just sadness; it contains some of the quiet and contemplative qualities that can be useful or may actually be needed. In melancholy you may withdraw from your active life to just sit and feel things. You may not have the lightness of spirit needed to stay engaged with the turbulence of life" (p. 80). 

The tone of the book is positive and full of hope while still dealing with issues that can cause people a lot of suffering.

I'm in my mid fifties, and I plan on rereading this book once a decade. I have a feeling that I'm missing some of the meaning because of my relative lack of experience with aging issues. But where I did recognize age-related challenges, Moore offered me a path through obstacles and into opportunities that only elders can enjoy. 

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17 comments:

  1. Thank you for this review. I'm looking forward to reading it.

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  2. I absolutely LOVE Thomas Moore. I´ve read all his other books and have them on audio. I had no idea he had released this one. Buying it thanks to YOU!

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    1. It's the first book of his that I've read. Glad to know that this isn't a fluke. I'll have to read more. He also writes one Tweet a day.

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  3. I haven't read any of his books before, but this one sounds like a must read. Thank you for all you do to spread awareness about aging well.

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  4. I was in my fifties when I immersed myself in spiritual learning. It seems I was ready to cast off the conditioning of traditional religion and discover what was within me.I'm older now, but still open to more ideas. Thanks for this—I'll put it on my reading list!

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    1. With your interest in spiritual learning, you may also enjoy a book Thomas Moore wrote before Ageless Soul called A Religion of One's Own (2014). It's a deep dive into personal religion and pairs nicely with Ageless Soul.

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  5. This sounds like a helpful book; I want to always improve as I age.

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    1. I agree that people can develop and grow throughout the life span. That's a great outlook.

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  6. Hi Karen! I am familiar with Thomas Moore but not this book. Thank you for sharing! I've been reading, and writing a great deal about aging in a positive way so I'll definitely have to take a look at it. ~Kathy

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    1. I enjoyed it very much. I hope to reread it in another decade. Enjoy.

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  7. I am older than you and wrote down this title so I can find this book; it sounds helpful. Interesting how he finds melancholy differs from depression and how it can be helpful.

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    1. Terra: I hope that you find the distinction between melancholy and depression useful. There were a lot of passages that made me re-examine elements of aging (and life). Thanks for stopping by the blog. Have a good week.

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  8. I don't often comment, but I appreciate your book and film suggestions. Thank you for sharing with us. Wishing you well in 2019.

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    1. Thanks, Pam. May you be blessed with every needful thing in 2019 and beyond. Thanks for stopping by the blog.

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