Norman Knight: Going gently into the night

Martha Stewart has been a hugely successful entrepreneur for decades. Her popular magazine and syndicated television show offer ideas on home decorating, food recipes, gardening, flower arrangements, DIY projects and so much more. She has several books and her own line of products.

These days, she would be called an “influencer,” although she has been at it since before that term was a thing. She sells a lifestyle, and is an energetic promoter of her “brand,” i.e. All Things Martha.

This month she is on the magazine cover of the latest Sports Illustrated, The Swimsuit Edition. Yes, that issue. The one that features attractive female models dressed in skimpy beachwear. Martha Stewart is 81 years old.

I admit, I had to look.

The photo shoot was on a beach in the Dominican Republic. She was photographed by professionals, of course. The photos have been airbrushed. She is artfully made-up and posed as she lounges on couches in perfectly decorated straw huts or relaxes shoulder-deep in the clear Caribbean waters. These photos certainly don’t show her octogenarian status. They do seem to prove a person can look good, can get by with much when they have the money and the desire to recreate themselves.

I know there are some who welcome the aging process. They look forward to slowing down, taking a deep breath and smelling the flowers, reading, perhaps learning new skills. These people are assuming wisdom and knowledge come with old age and perhaps they are right. I hope they are. As a seventy-something guy, I don’t want to wait too much longer for that wisdom and knowledge to kick in.

And yet, no one I have met enjoys the morning aches, the sore backs, the wonky knees, the weak eyes and the random jabs of pain that come and go throughout the days and into the nights. Medical procedures, fitness regimes, and of course, Big Pharma, dangle before our eyes a chance to look and feel young once more. But as photos of celebrities we have grown up with suddenly appearing at some gala with a disconcerting, newly fleshed-out face can testify, these attempts to recapture some semblance of youth can often go awry.

Sometimes we fool ourselves into believing we can accessorize our way back into youth. New clothes, a new car, more adventures. The fact is, at some point, actual young people aren’t fooled by our trendy, tight-fitted suit, wild haircut or cool T-shirt.

On the other hand, there are things one can do to stay the effects of aging. Let’s learn from Martha Stewart. In an interview after the photo shoot, she revealed she drinks green juice everyday, takes her vitamins, sees a skin doctor regularly, and always wears hats and sunblock. She also exercises regularly. Of course, she also has people whose job it is to make sure she looks her best wherever she goes.

But maybe it will not matter so much in the future. Artificial Intelligence, the world’s current apocalyptic terror, might be an answer to our yearning for perpetual youth which is, really, a struggle against death. “Do not go gentle into that goodnight,” as the poet has it.

During a promotional interview with Total Film for the latest Indiana Jones movie, Harrison Ford revealed that AI was used to “de-age” the 79-year-old actor to a 35-yer-old archeologist/adventurer. “I just shot him, and he just pretended he was 35,” says director James Mangold who called Ford “incredibly gifted and agile.”

Actor Tom Hanks, 66, also has been exploring AI with an eye to future movies made without him being actually around to act in them. “I could get hit by a bus tomorrow and that’s it, but my performances could go on and on and on and on,” he said.

I don’t have much interest in going on and on, or buying what Martha, Harrison, Tom or Big Pharma offers me. But I will continue to exercise and eat right and wear sunscreen. That’s as much effort as I care to muster as I go gently into my eventual goodnight.

Norman Knight, a retired Clark-Pleasant Middle School teacher, writes this weekly column for the Daily Journal. Send comments to