700 Common Word Reading and Dictation Exercise no. 40
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How old is old? How old are you and how old is your father? Again how old is his father? Maybe that last age seems very old to you who are young. But are you young? What is the age of the youngest baby in your family, either in your own home or in the homes of your relations? Perhaps the baby has lived for only a few months or even a few hours, and you at sixteen years of age must seem quite old to the baby’s mother. Age is, indeed, anything but a simple thing. You cannot be said to be young or old except in relation to the age of some other person or thing. To the young girls, starting life in the office for the first time, her immediate chief may seem quite old. That chief is probably, however, no more than 30 to 35 years of age, and he feels very young indeed when he is with his Director, who is nearly 70. But when the man who is nearly 70 sees the picture in the newspaper of a happy old man or woman who has reached one hundred years of age, he is in his turn feels young and almost boyish! Again, everyone, whatever his age may be, is so young as almost not to have lived at all if his age is considered side by side with that of the earth on which he lives and has being. The earth has been in existence for millions of years, and the age of mankind is as nothing if judged by the age of the earth itself. As we go through life we are forced to the belief that too much importance is given to a person’ age.

It is not the date on a pie of paper that matters: it is the person’s state of health in body and mind. Some people are quite old at 25 and others are still young at 70. We might perhaps all be happier if less importance were paid to age. Young people who express an opinion are often told that they are too young to know, and as a result very little attention is paid to such expressions of opinion. Yet it is possible that the young person has formed the opinion as a result of reading, followed by careful thought, and he has every right to his point of view. It is even possible that the young person is at times right while the person of more years is wrong. People do not always get wiser as they increase in age sometimes they do and sometimes they not. If it were not for the new ideas of the younger people new developments might often not take place. Equally wrong, however, is it for young people to make light of the opinions of their fathers and mothers. Young people too often take no account of the opinions of the old because it is so easy to tell the old people that they are out of date. The father and mother of a young person have lived longer and have had more experience. The War between the young and the old is not, we think, in the least necessary. What is probably necessary is a small change in outlook. In place of thinking of people’s ages we should think of them as being at different parts of the road through life.

If some people set out for a walk at 8 in the morning, those who set out for the same walk at 9 do not regard those in front of them as being quite out of the running and not worth consideration. Those who set out an hour later still are quite willing to regard the earlier and having therefore covered a little more distance. Those who are in front look back to those who are behind them, and perhaps feel some pleasure because they have already covered more ground, but they respect the others neither more nor less because they are in a different position. We are all in different position on the road through life. Some of us began our walk on the road early, and some set out a little later. Some have hardly taken the first steps. We are all on the same road together, and the distance we have covered is of very little importance because we have all to walk the road to the end of our lives, even though the distances covered are not all quite the same. Judged by the age of the earth the difference in the number of years of our lives is as nothing.

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