Meet Stanley Blum. He’s 94 years old. He survived the Great Depression, World War II and 35 years in the shoe industry.
Today — as a poet, painter and seeker — Blum has finally manifested his true inner self. He is engaged in a creative whirlwind of self-discovery that took off at age 80 and grows more textured and vibrant with each passing year. He is, in effect, figuring out what he wants to be when he grows up.
“I have spent a lifetime trying to unearth the debris that has obscured my inner voice. And now I have found my inner voice. But I didn’t wake up until I was 80 years old,” he says. That’s when he began work on his first book, “Unplugged.” He now has three books to his credit. And his paintings and poems are drawing larger audiences, people of all ages who are, like Blum, reaching their “Tipping Point:”
don’t tell me what is —
tell me what can be
don’t tell me where you were —
tell me where you’re going
don’t tell me what you think —
tell me what you’re about to know
To have a conversation with Blum, is to grasp the essence of what Swiss psychologist Carl Jung called “the duty and necessity to devote serious attention” to ourselves as we age — attention to our inner selves. “The afternoon of human life must also have a significance of its own and cannot merely be a pitiful appendage to life’s morning,” Jung wrote.
Blum strongly believes this, and is convinced that everyone has the innate capacity to realize this “necessity.” All his life, his passions were art, literature, poetry and jazz, but those passions were held “captive of somebody else’s agenda, always subject to influences beyond our control.” The habits and expectations imposed on us by outside forces can be life-long haunts, shadows that fool us into thinking our creative sides won’t serve us well in the world, according to Blum.
For him, it was 9/11 that unleashed “the angst and the creative energy that lay dormant for years.” That day was a trigger, an awakening to a deeply-held understanding: “It takes courage to accept the chaos and mindlessness around us,” says Blum. The only way to counter those outside forces is reach deep inside.
A select few can break free of their own volition. For others, a catalyst, like Blum’s 9/11 epiphany is needed to provide the impetus. But far too many find themselves locked in by material comforts, cultural dictates, deteriorating health and other factors.
This helps explain the unique Renaissance we see unfolding for people in their 60s, 70s and older. “They are slowly but surely being forced to break their habits — their dependencies on the structures they have no control over,” Blum believes.
There is nothing new about the notion that our capacity to navigate through the search for meaning is enhanced as we age. Robert Frost said,” the afternoon knows what the morning never expected.” But we are, as Blum so powerfully articulates, ingrained in our legacy behaviors, our habits, routines and the externally modified expectations that shape our actions.
Yet that’s all changing. “We are living longer. We have more time — perhaps as much as ten years or more — to realize who we are, the hidden potentials we were never compelled to realize and didn’t have the time to realize,” Blum said. “We have more time to accept how our lives are being controlled and misguided — and to act on that.”
Blum is ahead of the trend. He has long known the secret to breaking free from the prescribed, predictable and, in many ways, pre-destined patterns of conventional aging: “What keeps the longevity wheels moving is finding your creative self and celebrating it.”