I was idly googling myself at three a.m. this morning, having just arrived home from Paris [let us not have any cheap snarking here, please. Who among us has not done the same?] Deep into the sixty-eighth page of sites, I came upon the Blog of Jeremy Farris, a very interesting doctoral student at Oxford in political philosophy, who has, among other things, taught at Morehouse College. Farris has some nice things to say about me, but the line that caught my eye and brought a lump to my throat was this one: "Wolff appears to be much more active with his blog than I am, which is not bad for a man who is nearly an octogenarian."
Now, let me make one thing perfectly clear. I am clearly, firmly, irrefutably a septuagenarian! I am nine months past the mid-point of my decade long stroll through the seventies. My Lord, Barack Obama will be re-elected before I hit eighty! [But it will be close]
At first, I was stunned, appalled, devastated. But after regaining my composure, I tried to see things from Farris's point of view. The book of mine that has clearly had the biggest impact on him is IN DEFENSE OF ANARCHISM, which, though it was published in 1970, was actually written in the Summer of 1965. Farris's father was probably in grade school at the time, so in a certain sense, Farris bears the same relationship to the time of that book's writing as I do to the run-up to the First World War, when my father was in about fifth grade.
It is a commonplace claim about the experience of old age that one recalls events from one's youth more easily than what one had for breakfast. Now, this is not true of me at all. I recall vividly what I had for breakfast this morning. [I am helped, to be sure, by the fact that I have the same thing every morning, which saves me the trouble of deciding, and leaves me more time to plan my blog posts.] But what IS true is that those of us on the downward slope of life can survey a sweep of time and events that extends far beyond the immediacies that young people mistake for the totality of reality. That is why we are persuaded of our superior wisdom, despite the fact that we must ask the help of grade schoolers when struggling with our cellphones.
So, I recommend that you Google Farris and check out his blog, while at the same time cutting him some slack because of his extreme youth. It is not his fault that he is so young, and if we all just wait a while, the infirmity will correct itself.