I think it was Betty Davis who said old age is not for sissies. But it was Tolstoy who said the biggest surprise in a man’s life is old age. Old age sneaks up on you, and the next thing you know you’re asking yourself, I’m asking myself, why can’t an old man act his real age? How is it possible for me to still be involved in the carnal aspects of the human comedy? Because, in my head, nothing has changed … Elegy, 2008
Long weekends have a way of breeding a complacency concerning the time I have at my disposal, mainly that I have a lot of it when nothing could be further away from the truth. It’s like being given a whole box of Jaga Pokkuru potato snacks. It’s a hedonistic pleasure party until you’re down to the last pack. Then you start appreciating the abundance you had at the start, right about the time when it’s too late. It’s south side of the human condition, the firestarter for most human-related tragedies. The idea that no matter how far we see ourselves away from mortality’s line, still we end up being sucked into its gnarly jaws. The commodity that’s tradable is merely more time.
I watched 499 minutes worth of films over the weekend. I rarely watch films with an agenda in mind, treating them more like thought massages, a less strenous activity for my restless mind to indulge in just to rejuvenate. But there was a unifying theme to the movies I picked out over the weekend – fear. All good drama evidently requires a fear component, the threat of losing something, for the tale to be really worth the yarn.
But among the more obvious fear totems on display, the one that struck the closest eerie chord to my soul was not the 4,000 pound shark. That totem is easily banishable. I merely need to stay on land and it becomes completely irrelevant. I think we sometimes forget that many of our fears are temporary, and more importantly, self-inflicted. That back-breaking mortgage that’s been keeping you up at night was really not inflicted by the heavens, no matter how you may feel that it was.
Mortality, or a fear associated with it, is not something we can simply ‘stay in land’ to avoid. We’ve built an existence around managing its eventual appearance but it finds even the best of us, the most athletic, physically attractive or financially secure. Perhaps it’s the common line that God created to at least bring the entire species, from the strong to the weak, to the table occasionally for a conversation.
I am not afraid of growing old. I have accepted that my knees are no longer able to endure a leap from the top of my front gate when I forget my keys. I’ve found a way around that, just carry a spare in my wallet. That’s not the eerie chord that the film struck in me. Instead it is the fear that I am not growing old in commesurate to my age. Like David Kepesh in the film, it sometimes feels like ‘in my head, nothing has changed’.
I do recognise that human maturity is not a biological condition but a product of our environment. Basically, we change when we have to. Presumably there is often a corelation between our age and the responsibilities we take on that often drives our need to mature according to society’s expectations. I don’t think I’ve had to ‘change’. No marriage or kids yet to remind me that the rules of life have changed dramatically. In my mind, I still see life governed by the same game rules as it did 10-years ago. It’s not that life has not slugged me down with a few right hooks. It has. But I’ve not adjusted my ring strategy. I’m still using the same ones that worked well for me when I was younger, and naturally it’s getting increasingly hard to put up a good fight, or better yet, win.