The Beauty of Old Men (2022)

No Cosmetics Required.
(c) 2015, Davd

This is written in appreciation and in honour of old men who “mentored” me, as well as in affirmation of what i can now contribute as they did then, and of the value of men who are past the strength of youth. So please keep in mind that i write in the plural, in appreciation of my Granps and several other teachers and mentors.

Let me begin this reflection, then, with a stock phrase, more general than an aphorism: Too old for that sort of thing. I do say it about “sex”, but its range is far larger than eros. To appreciate old age, and old men, we should keep old-age’s weaknesses in mind as important context.

Last March, looking out the window at the prayer-garden i had so enjoyed for six years1, i noticed a pruning task that was likely to be called-for about this time of autumn, when the branches have stopped growing, involving a man standing on an 8-foot-tall stepladder and reaching above his shoulder level, perhaps above his head, to use a pair of lopping-shears.

Lopping-shears are a two-handed tool, so this task will call for whoever does it to stand some seven feet above the ground, on a ladder rung, without a free hand to steady himself. Twenty years ago, i could have been that man. This year i realized, and accepted, that i am now too old for that sort of thing.

Twenty-five years ago next summer, i knelt on a half-steep roof, facing down over the edge toward a 20-foot drop to bedrock, and nailed on the outer courses of asphalt-“shingle” roofing because, of course, they go on first. Then i worked my way to the top. Today, i would be willing to do the same work starting from where i could face upslope rather than downslope—but not those bottom “courses”—and i couldn’t work kneeling for as long.

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Traditional wisdom takes notice: The glory of young men is their strength; and the beauty of old men is their grey hair. [Proverbs 20:29]

More precisely, the beauty is not in our grey hair. It is under our grey hair—if we have hair left—and in the way we use our time. Old bald-headed men partake of it also—but not all old men “have the beauty,” however much or little hair they wear above their ears and of whatever colour. If we have put our earlier lives to good use, we have learned many, many things—more than our juniors have had time to learn. These things-learnt—most of them not memories in a personal sense, but of events and circumstances from our earlier days—provide us old men with abundant context, more abundant than middle-aged men have, far more abundant than young men have, in which to think about the tasks, problems, and events of the present.

I, for instance, have learned to read, speak, and write some Finnish, improved my German and Spanish, and lately learned a little French, in addition to my boyhood English and the basic Spanish i learned in secondary school. When i was half my present age, i could speak, read, and write English quite well and Spanish quite badly; now i can speak and read some Finnish, French and Spanish, can struggle to read and occasionally even speak some German; and these four languages inform my use of English as none of them did back then.

I can remember when many women, at marriage, promised to obey their husbands… and i can also recall observing that in those same years, about as many wives dominated their husbands, as vice-versa2. Today’s young men and big boys can perhaps remember US President Obama telling a random male voter, “Just do whatever she tells you to” while campaigning for re-election in 2012. Women, as part of the marriage ceremony, promising to obey their husbands?—“that’s history”, and they have no feel for how ancient or recent, no personal recollection of its context.

The first beauty of old men is in how much knowledge we can recall, in our personal context of that time, rather than having to look it up and read it in the unknown context of someone else’s recollection and work.

The second is in our appreciation of the strength and accomplishments of younger men, and of boys. This is far more important today than it was fifty and one hundred years ago, when men were more valued in culture (and specifically in law and bureaucratic administration.) The ecological predicament is best addressed—best resolved—using skilled, large muscle labour—the work young men do best. We old men can give the young men on whom our best response to the ecological predicament depends, some mentoring in those large muscle skills, some appreciation and respect for them3. We can affirm and mentor the boys who have a flair for skilled manual work, and with better effect because that flair was once ours..

The third beauty, which is in our willingness and disposition to bless and to tutor our juniors; overlaps the second but is distinct. When a man is between one and two generations old, his first concern usually is to do whatever he can do best, as best he can, with his own body. He won’t ignore nor neglect his children, but he is likely to take, rather often, a “Look at this and see if you can do it too” (or “… and see if you can learn to do it too”) approach. By the time he is of the age to become a grandfather, he begins to have a fuller appreciation of the diversity of humanity, and a greater ability to nurture the good qualities in people—boys and younger men especially— who aren’t much like him.

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Old men also have more free time to “mentor”. Young and middle-aged men are called-for when the job involves heavy lifting and quick reflexes; and while the old men and boys might tag along if it isn’t a hireling job, our work is less demanding and less constant. We have time to tell and show the boys what’s going on, while the younger men have to give fuller attention to the task. (In industrial societies, younger men are usually employed at single-focus worksites in places where boys and old men are not even welcome … those worksites are less human than the multi-generation family farm, fishboat, or craft business.)

It was from my grandfather, not my father, that i received a rough map of the work possibilities to which my talents might lead, and introductions to electricity, gardening, science, and woodworking. Dad took me fishing and showed me some of “how to dress”; but he had many more demands on his time, and i think he was more concerned that i “represent him well”, somehow.

Our fourth beauty overlaps the first; it is in personal memories, that can inform boys and younger men beyond their own lifespans: We can recall “how things were” in times when younger men were not yet living, or were boys rather than grown men. It’s been many years since that once common prank, “The Stink Bomb”, was common. In retrospect, “The Stink Bomb” was a rather efficient form of civil disobedience—better than some more violent and disruptive forms we have seen more-often, lately. You’re not likely to learn that in school, nor on the evening news.

I can remember when misogyny and misandry were roughly balanced and neither was dominant. I can remember a change to strong net misandry during my lifetime. They can’t. But if i tell young men and adolescent boys my stories, stories i remember rather than have read, that can bring them closer to a sense of social change, and of the real possibility—and superiority—of balance rather than dominant misandry.

There is wisdom, and a fifth beauty is possible, in our acceptance of mortality… in our awareness that we have fewer, decades-fewer years left to live than we have lived already. Younger men are also mortal—but few of them feel it, once they are on their own and doing their man’s work. It’s all too easy for middle-aged men to take on projects and mortgages they will not have time to complete.

Seriously, if you’re between say, 35 and 60 years old, and you’re thinking of something long-term you’d like to do or something expensive to buy with a mortgage—talk it over with your father, your uncle, an Elder in your church or your tribe. Form with that older man, a perspective on your remaining years on earth. Recognize that life is partly a matter of chance, and that it’s prudent—and healthy—to allow plenty of extra time and even money for bad luck, bad times—and good opportunities you can’t name right now.

Keeping track of your remaining life expectancy, and a sense of that expectancy as a random variable, can be valuable even to young men and adolescent boys. It should be part of the initiation of boys into the first stage of manhood, and such initiation, given by men of diverse adult ages, should be a normal puberty experience for boys.

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I’ve been told, now and then since i finished Grade 12 and went on to university studies, that i act older than my years. Some of these “beauties of old age” may have been with me longer than with most other men in their seventies. I may have become middle-aged at 30, in my second year as Associate Professor, and old [but not yet weak] in my fifties. If so, i have an old man to thank, who nurtured my boyhood; an American Métis electrician, fiddler, storyteller, and inventor. Not him alone, but him especially. If you are past 50, or act old for your years, see what boys you can “mentor” as he did, me.

Gran-Père, je te souviens.


1. It took three years at least, to make it even a semblance of a prayer garden, from its use before i bought the land.

2. One reason so many women dominated their households, was the separation of men’s workplaces from their homes. In those mid-20th-Century years, fairly few Canadian and “American” women worked away from home; theirs was the predominant presence in the house. As i commented above, separating men’s work from the presence of boys and older men, is less human than the multi-generation family farm, fishboat, or craft business.

3. Feminism and the bureaucracies it has influenced, whose main concern is the self-interests of higher-class women, haven’t the motivation, nor the background, to fully appreciate skilled manual labour. That is likely one major reason, why the governmental as well as profit motivated approaches to managing nature, are too mechanistic.

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The Beauty of Old Men (2)

About Davd

Davd (PhD, 1966) has been a professor, a single father keeping a small commercial herb garden so as to have flexible time for his sons, and editor of _Ecoforestry_. He is a practicing Christian, and in particular an advocate of ecoforestry, self-sufficiency horticulture, and men of all faiths living together "in peace and brotherhood" for the fellowship, the efficiency, and the goodwill that sharing work so often brings.


What does packing their trunks mean? ›

Answer: This line expresses M. Hamel's feelings about abandoning the school and his garden,where he had almost spent 4 decades of his life educating young minds.

WHAT piece of advice was given by the teacher to everyone last lesson? ›

In The Last Lesson, the teacher M. Hamel told the students about the importance of a language in the lives of the people. He implicitly stated that a language always keep the people united. He encouraged them to fight unitedly to win their freedom from slavery.

What was the reason that the narrator hardly knew how do you write French? ›

The narrator hardly knew how to write french because he used to put off learning till the next day. (c) He wanted his students to be very attentive. These words were like a thunderclap to Franz. It was going to be his last French lesson.

Who are referred to as fellows a Frenchmen B Village People C Germans D Alsatians? ›

The answers are as follows:
  • Q36. C. Germans are referred to as fellows.
  • Q37. D all the options were the preferences of the parents.
  • Q39. Reproach means D. upbraid.
  • Q40. The given lines were penned by A. Alphonse Daudet.
Sep 28, 2021

What does The Last Lesson symbolize? ›

The story 'The Last Lesson' highlights the human tendency that there is plenty of time to do things; hence, man keeps postponing the lessons of life, oblivious to the fact that life is subject to change. ... The last French lesson taught by M. Hamel symbolizes the loss of language and the loss of freedom for France.

Why does Franz say I'm Amazed? ›

(d) Why Franz was amazed to see how well he ? Answers: (a) M. Hamel told about the French language that it was the most beautiful language in the world—the clearest, the most logical; that we must guard it among us and never forget it.

How is mother tongue important the last lesson? ›

It can unite people and give them a sense of belonging. According to M. Hamel, even if people are enslaved, their mother tongue can act like a key to a prison. He believed that French was the most beautiful and logical language in the world and he wished that his countrymen had given it more importance.

In what way did the feelings of Franz and the villagers change what was responsible for this change? ›

1) Parents send frenz on farm instead of encouraging him to learn French. 2) Franz himself instead of completing his homework he put work for the next day. 3)M Hamel also responsible for giving him holiday and send him to water the plants.

How does the last lesson highlights the importance of language? ›

The pain and anguish of the students and the teacher is evident as everyone realizes how things were taken for granted. The lesson emphasizes the importance of the mother tongue for everyone and the need to realize the fact that it is our language which gives us our identity, respect and freedom.

What is tempted Franz? ›

Question 10 : What tempted Franz to stay away from school? Answer : Franz feared a scolding at school as he had not prepared his lesson on participles. Besides, the warm, bright weather, the chirping of birds and the sight of the marching Prussian soldiers also tempted him to stay away from school.

What was Hamel's attitude to surprised Franz? ›

Franz was startled and amazed when M. Hamel ascended the seat and declared that he was there to teach his last French class that day. He was deeply apologetic for neglecting to learn his own tongue, and he developed an odd interest in both his language and his school as a result.

What happened when Franz heard his name called? ›

Solution : Franz heard his name called. It was his turn to recite the rules for participles. But Franz had not learnt those. But he wanted that he could recite it in a clear and loud voice.

What is the significance of 1894 in the lesson the third level? ›

Answer: For him the Third Level is a convenient medium of escape. Here he escapes into the old world of 1894 in order to lead a peaceful life in Galesburg where the people are leading a life of romance and are living in big houses. Here the escape is not in the past but in a futuristic world of fantasy.

Why was the lesson called the last lesson? ›

Why the lesson was called the 'last lesson'? Answer: The lesson was called the 'last lesson' because an order had come from Berlin to teach only German in the schools of Alsace and Lorraine from the next day. So, that was their last French lesson and the new master would come from the next day.

What was Franz banking entering the class? ›

He thought that M. Hamel would scold him as he was late but he was very gentle and nicely asked him to sit on his bench.

What does deep water signify? ›

Deep Water is about the writer's journey of overcoming the fear of water, which is deeply rooted in him since childhood. The author started fearing water since the age of four. It starts when he was visiting California with his father. He visits a beach where a wave knocks him down and sweeps over him.

What does bulletin board symbolize? ›

The bulletin-board that hangs outside the town hall represents the oppression of the Prussian occupiers who have invaded the region of Alsace-Lorraine, where the village that is home to the narrator, Franz, is located.

What changed Franz's feelings about Hamel and school? ›

Franz found out that M. Hamel would not teach him French anymore because only German was going to be taught in the schools. This news changed Franz's attitude towards his teacher and school. He regretted that he had never learned his lessons properly.

What did Franz think of moments? ›

For a brief time on his way to school, Franz considered fleeing and spending the day outside. That day was so beautiful, warm, and bright that he imagined himself listening to the singing birds at the forest's edge. He imagined himself seeing the Prussian troops drill at the sawmill's rear.

Who were the wretches Franz refers to? ›

Answer. Answer: Franz calls the informers of the defeat in war as wretches because they had mentioned a bad news on the board. After it was announced to him that this would be their last French lesson, he understood that the same news must have been mentioned on the board.

Why did the narrator praise Franz? ›

because narrator want to praise Franz for his good qualities...

What is Mr Hamel's perspective about language? ›

Hamel told them that French was the most beautiful language in the world. It was the clearest and the most logical language. He asked them to guard it among them and never forget it.

Why does the author urge the reader to respect his language? ›

Solution : The author urge the reader to respect his language because it is the key to freedom.

What shows Hamel's love for the French language? ›

Expert-verified answer

He mainly writes 'Viva La France!” this has shows the love of Mohammad Hamel towards the France language.

How did Franz's attitude towards his books change after he heard about the order from Berlin? ›

How did Franz's attitude towards his books change after he heard about the order from Berlin ? Franz attitude got changed as he now repent for not learning his lessons and the textbooks that were a nuisance for him became his old friends now that he couldn't give up.

What feelings and experiences did Franz have on the day of the last lesson? ›

He forgot about his teacher being 'cranky' and his ruler. He developed a fondness for M. Hamel at the troubling idea of being separated from him forever. He understood the pain and agony his teacher was undergoing and became more sympathetic towards him.

How did Franz attitude towards his language undergo a sea change? ›

Answer:Franz attitude towards his language changed as M Hamel announced that this was his last lesson because Prussian took over districts of Alsace and Lorraine. Those very word change his entire life and proved to be a thundershock.

How did Franz realize the importance of his mother tongue? ›

Answer: He tells all the students that an order has come from Berlin to teach German in the schools of Alsace in place of French. These words astonish little Franz and later make him realize the importance of his mother tongue.

What message does the writer want to convey to the readers through The Last Lesson? ›

Ans. The author Alphonse Daudet wants to emphasize to his readers that they should always be loyal and proud of their country and mother tongue. He wants the readers to be aware of the great importance of learning their own language and never forgetting it no matter what the circumstances.

What does the story The Last Lesson suggest about how students can be motivated to learn? ›

Answer: This line is truly said. Adults play a very important role in motivating the young learners to take education seriously. They have went through this stage and can guide us in the right track through their experience.

Who was M Hamel *? ›

M. Hamel was the french teacher in the school in which franz study . He was very loyal and faithful towards his ability of teaching french which was their mother tongue . He was of very strict and crancky nature.

What was Franz plan to skip school? ›

Answer. Franz wanted to skip the school that day because he had a test of participles.

What is the character sketch of M Hamel? ›

Character Sketch of M Hamel

He was an honest teacher. He did not blame his students alone for poor learning. He also held himself responsible for the same. He was very patriotic as he appealed to his countrymen to hold fast to their mother tongue to be free from the Prussians.

What changes did the narrator find in the school? ›

(i) The school and all other things were quiet like Sunday Morning. (ii) The whole school seemed very strange and solemn. (iii) M. Hamel had put on his finest dress which he wore only on inspection and prize days of school.

What was unusual about M Hamel's dress? ›

What was unusual about M. Hamel's dress on his last day in the school? Solution : M Hamel was dressed in his special suit which comprised his beautiful green coat, frilled shirt and a little black silk cap, all embroidered because it was the last lesson that he would deliver.

Why were the elders of the village sitting in the classroom? ›

The elders of the village were present in the classroom to attend the last French lesson by Mr. Hamel. They not only paid their respects and tribute to Mr. Hamel but also showed their interest towards their own language which was, perhaps, being taught for the last time in the village.

What is Angelus in the last lesson? ›

Ans: Angelus is a midday prayer sung by the catholic.

What is the meaning of look so tall? ›

"look so tall" is a phrase which means sad. M. Hamel was a teacher of French language. It was his last French lesson to teach in the school where he was teaching for 40 years as the order had come from Berlin to teach only German in the schools of Alsace and Lorraine.

What do you think is the theme of the story the last lesson? ›

The theme of the story 'The Last Lesson' is linguistic chauvinism of the proud conquerors and the pain that is inflicted on the people of a territory by them by taking away the right to study or speak their own language and thus make them aliens in their own land of birth.

How does the story interweave fantasy and reality? ›

Solution : The Third Level' interweaves between fantasy and reality. The Third Level is medium of escape for Charley from the present harsh realities of modem life which is full of insecurity, fear, war, worry and tension. He takes it for a reality and plans to go to Galesburg.

Why does Charley call the world in 1894 Peaceful? ›

Answer: The modern world is full of insecurity, fear, war and worries. Charley just wants to escape. So he wanders into the fanciful world of 1894 which is much away from the harsh realities of life. ...

What were the speaker's feelings when he described the Grand Central? ›

the speaker's feelings when he described the Grand Central was that he was fascinated.

What is tempted Franz? ›

Question 10 : What tempted Franz to stay away from school? Answer : Franz feared a scolding at school as he had not prepared his lesson on participles. Besides, the warm, bright weather, the chirping of birds and the sight of the marching Prussian soldiers also tempted him to stay away from school.

What happened when Franz heard his name called? ›

Solution : Franz heard his name called. It was his turn to recite the rules for participles. But Franz had not learnt those. But he wanted that he could recite it in a clear and loud voice.

What was Mr Hamel's question to Franz about? ›

Answer: Franz was very late for school 'that morning'. M. Hamel was to question the students on participles and Franz knew nothing and feared a scolding.

What is the setting of the last lesson? ›

The Last Lesson Setting

The present story is set during the days of Franco – Prussian War (1870 – 18710) in which France was defeated by Prussia led by Bismarck. At that time Prussia consisted of Germany, Poland, and some parts of Austria.


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