Once having succumbed to any indulgence (and I regret to say my past is sotted with more than a few) it was not uncommon for me to proclaim perhaps apologetically but always energetically, “Well, I got my money’s worth!” I flatter myself to recognize quality. My sense however is that not everyone is as cavalier about expenditure. My vulgar activity was unquestionably driven by appetite not insouciance. Whether the object of my devotion was things or people, I was shamelessly propelled by immediacy (oddly without a hint of regard for impending doom or theoretical loss). No, there was no philosophic restraint or extraneous fuel; rather the operation was strictly visceral. This may seem a small compliment but it echoes another popular yet singularly insightful adage, “The best sauce for any meal is an appetite!” The conviction is driven not by rapacity or lasciviousness; it is just plain ardour, an answer to a call, as indefinable as pain. And like pain the ephemeral appetite evaporates when the matter is addressed. An appetite is a time-sensitive project both in and out I’d say.
You may have remarked that I have spoken of myself in an historic manner – as though to imply that my erstwhile indulgences are gone. This I am afraid is no exaggeration. I suppose there are those who enthrall to contradict me, to assert the beneficence and magnanimity of life at any stage or age but frankly I’m done with the real estate, the custom cabinetry, the Steinway, the art, the jewellery, the sterling silver, the rock crystal, the Crown Derby and the precious Persians. The only qualification is that on occasion I wistfully contemplate the nautical theme of a Chelsea Ship’s Bell (part of another of my abuses I ought to have mentioned – clocks and time pieces generally). But on balance I have exhausted my interest – or should I say “appetite” – in those matters. A Ship’s Bell is now about as topical as a frozen martini – just a glimpse of the past that’s all! Though I admit missing the blazing Vermont casting and that same paragraph of Jane Austen’s novel of manners and satire called Pride and Prejudice which I read and re-read while I sipped my martini and got lit by the fireplace!
As tedious and unimaginative as it is to say, we’re all different. Whether you’re Phineas Taylor Barnum or Steve Jobs or anyone in between, whether you live a long or a short life, whether you are are rich or poor, it’s all a crapshoot. In retrospect I reckon I appreciated what life had to offer me and I wasn’t convinced by any calculation to put off the pursuit of it. In the process what I proved was not that Rolex is a fine watch (which naturally it is) but that I already had everything I wanted or needed. The problem is that it took me seven decades and an assortment of misadventures to uncover the detail. I say this with a strand of sorrow because my imperfect conduct so manifestly assaulted clinical logic. My failure is perhaps best elucidated by my late father’s now axiomatic declaration, “You can’t have money and things!” It is a confession equivalent to conceding you ate too much, more often than not a painful reward for fats, sugar and salt howsoever elegantly rendered initially. We are trunks of limited capacity. In the end if the baggage is overburdened, it is so much flotsam.
On the threshold of this new world – this world relieved of compelling appetite – I persist to grasp certain of my prodigality but far better engineered. The dispensation is guarded and calculated, essentially lacking all the urgency of youth. But the one characteristic which has not changed is my settlement upon the excitement of being alive and getting into as much trouble as possible with the least repercussion! I have also adopted a conversion theory which translates life’s substance both progressively and ultimately, say an abbreviation of the “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” logo.
‘Ashes to ashes’ derives from the English Burial Service. The text of that service is adapted from the Biblical text, Genesis 3:19 (King James Version):
In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.
Currently my synthesis of this concept is limited to alteration not destruction.