If I were to size up the sum of my life it would oddly consist predominantly of a collection of things, ideas and people from which and from whom I have purposively withdrawn. What in many instances were once the objects of focus, direction and desire have all but vanished from view, discarded as so much errant surplusage It is in part testimony to my fickle passions. It also captures a paradox of living.
Initially buoyed by youthful energy, good luck and an ungoverned belief that anything (within reason of course) was possible, I fatuously squandered the largest part of my colourless existence greedily endeavouring to embrace all that was on the horizon. Naturally p&v was an imperative ingredient of the enterprise and a waxing of that resource (and an exponential exhaustion of my appetite) has of necessity changed the landscape. But irrespective of the predictable amortization I have nonetheless pondered that if I were to do it again, things would be different, that I would rein in the unmitigated exuberance. The majority of wistful amendments and alterations would be nothing more than dreary financial discretion and proper decisions regarding my health (not smoking for example and drinking less). There would also be tactical (and more convincing) adjustments to my ambition in general, for one thing spending less time and energy absorbed in things, ideas and people that did nothing to elevate my experience. It is this callous admission which presumably is the questionable reward of age, the conviction to disregard what at one time monopolized my being. As hard-hearted as it is, however, it affords the unlikely stimulus to abandon what requires more effort than it is worth to me. From my current perspective it is a victory which has been hard-won and one in which I gloatingly rejoice (noticeably to the point of philosophic arrogance).
I own that it is easy to snap one’s fingers at the costly luxuries, frivolous indulgences and distinguished relationships which one was either chanced or privileged to entertain, but lately the real work of my daily absorption has been disposition not acquisition. It is no trifling matter to avoid deference to what is touted as valuable even when the motivation was strictly pragmatic (which is to say cunning). The more sobering reality is that as a younger person I was propelled to adopt postures whose utility was guided more by others (or at least what I inferred they projected) than myself. Certainly unforgivable personal vanity played a rôle too and that weakness alone sustains the value of distancing myself from past foibles. I’d also have to admit that some of the deterioration is mere evaporation, the reduction of pungency with the effluxion of time.
Because what matters is the elimination of static, I have had to bite my tongue (otherwise it’s rather like throwing rocks from a what is mistakenly imagined to be a safe distance). In the pursuit to lessen life’s friction the temptation is indeed very great to increase the divide, to lay blame, to accuse, to ridicule, to threaten, to put down and pull down, to cast dispersions, to identify and to characterize the negative people and elements. I have never been above revenge! Similarly I remind myself how readily we hold others to a laughable standard of perfection! Yet the genuine relief is the satisfaction of merely closing the door, a peremptory act. And never looking back! To calculate one’s progress by reference to others is a guaranteed loss. In fact it doesn’t matter who (if anyone) is right, not because I am above being right but because the abandonment of the project represents a release from the fiction of objectivity (which is seldom more than an attempt to dignify or disguise one’s own conduct). Besides I suspect our personal unfolding is no more cultured, cajoled or contrived than the evolution of any other creature in nature. We are destined to be what we are and our messing with the growth amounts to little more than meddling. Letting well enough alone is good counsel.
Reasoned thought is a quiet and strictly private world. It is also a fortunate accident of contemplation, removed from the disruptive interventions of others. In that respect it is somewhat fantastic because it is a highly sheltered domain. Nonetheless I delight in having succeeded to remove myself from many sources of annoyance. It is as axiomatic as the glass half-full or half-empty, a combination of choice and perspective. It is however a calculated balance not merely inner stability. I must remember to bite my tongue!
At times I feel this process is nothing but the natural unraveling of sinews, a premonition of ultimate release, just as Nature teaches us how to die, the gradual purpose of letting go. On the other hand I embrace the vacuum and marvel at the supreme advantage which is the absence of irksomeness, the prerogative to face each day without encumbrance. What a glory it is to linger over coffee at table for hours every morning!