Who among us hasn’t at one time or another thought, “I’ve heard it all before!” Apart from some blunt truth about the first day of school, so often what rings in our ears are the platitudes of ambition, power and love. The real show-stopper however is the generic annotation that life is short, a distilled and inescapable reduction of life’s jamboree. A corollary to this deduction is the imperative to do whatever one can to glory in it. Pointedly this intelligence is normally slow to percolate among youth and persists as but a stinging reminder to those of us who have seemingly escaped the penalty of age – which is to say a curmudgeonly disposition. I characterize the achievement as one of proclivity rather than the obvious declension of hair length and colour, the loss of teeth and hearing, the poisonous influence of arthritis (whatever that may be really be), neuropathy and the truly vulgar growth of random ear and nose hair. The frozen reality is that even within such vegetative state one is nonetheless able to appreciate the erstwhile endorsements of youth and activity.
Just as we know not every child is beautiful so too is there an indisputable elegance to certain elderly people. When the obscurity of looks, wealth and image gives way to the more proximate hint of reason it is not long before the need arises for an inductive leap – a reversal of logic from the general to the specific. Herein lies the irregularity and inconsistency which characterizes the last lap of life – namely, the focus upon the moment and its unqualified absorption. In plain terms so much of youth is squandered upon hope and imagination rather than the present and its inscrutable pleasures.
Whatever it is that one has heard over and over again surely a popular chorus is the unanticipated speed of life’s cycle. I at least have the comfort of recalling the Masonic ritual that, “Life teaches us how to die“, an admittedly horrid yet hopeful reflection which interestingly captures the complete and distressingly “natural” story of this mad experience. Personally I prefer another adage, “I’m not saving it for the funeral!” This comic quip is not as insightful as may at first appear. The thing is we never know when to prepare the black crêpe for the front door. Until then we’re normally contorted by competing bursts from the indecency of capitalism to the perversion of religious piety.
Recently I watched a television programme which heralded sleep as both convalescent and curative. If nothing else the broadcast palliated the afternoon nap. I mention this apparent triviality because today I shamefully lingered in my virginal lair until approaching noon. Even excusing my delinquency by adding that today is Sunday (and a miserably cold and rainy one I might add) and that it was almost midnight last night before I collapsed beneath the duvet (and that, yes, I did go for my usual 10 km cycle yesterday), nonetheless until I spirited myself from the couch this morning and realigned myself with the gears of my morning constitutional ablutions and restoratives of chilled black coffee and sliced green apple the reviving influence of productivity had yet to overtake me. I confess to a prior degree of remorse. Not because life had disappointed me but because I was wary of disappointing life.
As long as I live
Maybe I can’t give you diamonds and things like I want to,
But I can promise you, baby, I’m gonna want to as long as I live