Molybdenum, or element 42

At 80, Oliver Sacks is mercury. Last year, aged 79, he was gold. In a New York Times opinion piece published last week, “The Joy of Old Age. (No Kidding.),” the famed professor of neurology and author ruminates about his life in connection with elements, mortality, and, yes, the joy of it all. Reading this piece caused me to find a copy of the periodic table to discover what element I will be as my birthday blooms around the corner. Molybdenum. Not as sexy as gold, but strength is one of its attributes.

The clock keeps ticking, thankfully, and as another year passes, I find the beats that propel me provide a steady impetus to keep an eye on what is important. You’ve heard it before: be in the moment, appreciate those you love and those who love you, say, “thank you,” be generous and kind. But, aside from these tenets, how much of life and relationships depend on chance? Our power to make choices and take action may take us far, but not everything is under our control. “No one’s fated or doomed to love anyone. The accidents happen, we’re not heroines, they are in our lives like car crashes, books that change us, neighborhoods we move into and come to love.” (excerpted from Adrienne Rich, XVII, Love Poems, Dream of a Common Language. Read a great post on Rich’s writing from Brainpickings) How do you navigate life’s neighborhoods? Below are three very different suggested fiction and non-fiction titles featuring characters whose ruminations may strike a chord:  

Poser: my life in twenty-three yoga poses by Claire Dederer 
The more she practices yoga, the worse she gets. Dederer uses her practice as a means of life exploration in this witty, entertaining non-fiction narrative. 

Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson
I cannot laud this novel enough. Petterson’s beautifully efficient prose renders a breathtaking story of 67-year-old Trond, a man who has moved to an isolated Norwegian cabin to live out his days. When a neighbor moves in, he is forced to deal with his past, present and future.  

An Anthropologist on Mars by Oliver Sacks
Featuring seven case studies of neurological patients, including Temple Grandin, this book gives insight into what people manage to do with the cards they are given.

Scroll to Top