Be not mistaken! Old age can be a ball! Maybe not jumping on tables. But every other feature of the jamboree is unequivocally sustained. After having surpassed ¾ a century there is nothing I have lately done to improve my life more than old age. Oh yes, from what I wistfully recall I have numerous fond reminiscences of youth. But always at a cost. Now I go to bed whenever I wish after having done whatever I want. And next morning I awaken at any time as well – and nothing to regret, nothing to forget, nothing to abet. Arising from the lair is a feat of endurance not a recovery from indolence.
True, I haven’t now as much cause or substance for regret, no excesses of food or drink, no admissions of dispute or alarm, no celebrity or obligation of any magnitude. A good cigar is allusion only. But having the singular pleasure of being unobstructed is an unparalleled accomplishment! Once one has adopted a cosmetic exercise regime the purgatory is complete! A restricted diet (an affection for fruit and curds) and the rest is child’s play! And remember to drink plenty of water. Routine is second nature, no longer a monotony or annoyance. Passing for a Regimental Sergeant Major is mere entitlement, an expectation, an abbreviation of standard. Rigour and the stiff upper lip! I have lost sight of any other way.
No longer is there concern for the future. The present is all that matters. The future is no more than tarsome speculation, as bootless as participation on the commodities market, as mercurial and unpredictable. It’s too late for anything else. Leave it to the professionals, one’s financial advisor, accountant or lawyer. It would be irresponsible to do otherwise. Old age is the ultimate condescension, the relieving submission to fact. Ours is not to change the world but to improve it by whatever means at hand.
And be not further mistaken! I have every confidence in the worth of my being, my limited wisdom, my inductive leaps and shameful insights which discolour the glamour but remove the clamour, the intuition to see what is beyond, to settle willingly and unabashedly upon such perspicacious conclusions as, “If you do what you like, you’ll like what you do!” You may laugh. But that bracing conclusion follows a history of worldliness. It would now require a mournful Adagietto from Gustav Mahler to persuade me of any other estimable youthful brooding. It took me years to perfect that adage. Nor was it a treasure uncovered at the end of the trail. It was the nutrition of a lifetime, the belief that I mattered. Small wonder I adore axioms! They are the incontrovertible apothegms of living. Old age sanctions the obvious.
Were I to attach any hesitancy to this vigour it is this, the temporal issue. Or what is commonly illustrated by the bromide, “Time is running out!” Indeed it is true. And unquestionably perhaps more for the elderly than the young. But for both the young and the old, the needless hang-up with the effluxion of time is a profitless and enfeebling distraction. What if in fact we knew precisely when time would run out? Would it change one’s attitude in an adverse way? I think not! If anything it would spark one to enlarge upon what one was doing. And the logic of doing so is more compelling than otherwise. We are assured by application to recover more from this life with the best than the worst.
As I reflected upon this subject, I asked myself, “What if things went sideways? Then what?” Naturally it would be easy to complain of loss or injury (and it is both expected and intuitive). Yet the curious thing about life, whether young or old, is the similarly untaught assertion of the best. My experience with the little dismay I have had to endure is that the sooner I forget about it, the better. Distress is not a buoy or a mooring; it is an anchor. My entire life has been a study in self-expression whether music, oratory, writing or photography. Some avenues of expression have closed; but others have opened not only unintentionally but innately, as a branch grows from the base of the tree. It is our peril and praise to exist.
Dylan Thomas (1914 – 1953)
Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
The night above the dingle starry,
Time let me hail and climb
Golden in the heydays of his eyes,
And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns
And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves
Trail with daisies and barley
Down the rivers of the windfall light.