"We are able to receive, to be moved and touched, and yet we remain undeviatingly true to our given nature.

"This softened character forms in the course of physical trials, which bring qualities of soul to clich├ęs about natural decay. Being down-to-earth, hard-nosed, and sharp-eyed does not go far enough in the long run, and these qualities do not confirm uniqueness of character since they show the fortitude that everyone expects. The easy path of aging is to become a thick-skinned unbudging curmudgeon, an old buzzard, a battle-ax. To grow soft and sweet is the harder way.

"Character is refined in the laboratory of aging. You don't get it right the first time. Each day brings another opportunity to strike the right mix, neither too malleable nor too rigid, neither too sweet nor too dry, giving the older character its power to bless with a tough-minded tenderness.

" A story is told of the legendary philosopher Democritus. At 109 he began relinquishing the pleasures of life one by one by omitting an item of food from his diet each day. At the last, he had only a pot of honey left. He absorbed its sweet aromatic fragrance and passed away."