17 April 2011

I May Be Getting Older But I'm Also Getting Butter, I Mean Better, Although I Could Do With Some Margarine

The photo is of my Mom and Dad in New York circa 1945.


Most of the young are bored most of the time -- if they have any spirit at all. That is to say, they are outraged -- and quite rightly so -- because life isn’t as wonderful as they feel it ought to be. - From Down There on a Visit by Christopher Isherwood.

It has come to my attention recently that, chronologically speaking, I am getting older. Oh I know that one starts getting older immediately upon being born, if not sooner, but there is an indeterminate point at which one stops maturing or growing up and begins to age.

Fortunately I do not feel old or older. I'm physically in top shape and still think of myself as a member of a younger generation (I say "a" rather than "the" as a demonstration that I'm not deluded enough to fancy myself one of today's younger set). Nevertheless I do find myself afflicted with certain diseases of aging. These include bouts of sentimentality. Occasional wistfulness. Pangs of regret. Burnings of yearnings. Severe fits of nostalgia.

All too often I begin sentences with the following words: I remember when I was a kid.... Of course there are other variations, such as: when I was in high school, or when I was in college. Usually I'm recalling how things were cheaper, simpler, less commercial or comparatively unsophisticated. My children roll their eyes. There is a lot of eye rolling in our house. Even the cat is fed up with my reminisces. Animals can sense these things, you know.

One of the reasons I like getting together with my big brother is so that we can jaw about the old days. We enable one another's journey's back to the old days. In those there are recollections of rotary telephones that were big black monstrosities and could not fit in one's pocket. Days when movies cost 50 cents (for a double feature matinee) and could only be seen in theaters or sliced and diced on TV. We remember when you could get a burger, fries and soda for around $1. But make no mistake, these were not the good old days. People smoked everywhere for one thing. For another, while we didn't have to deal with the over reaction that is political correctness, racial slurs were common and gays were either deep in the closet or called fairies.

Still I often put a golden hue on days of yore. Nostalgia is a way of making the normal of 30 years ago seem quaint and interesting. The time when we were young seems to belong to us. We are that generation and can be quite possessive of it. So we romanticize. This is not unusual.

Of course the trap I fall into is supposing that somehow those days can be relived. That I can go back and correct all our mistakes, take the knowledge and wisdom I've accumulated and employ it in the service of leading a better, perhaps even perfect life. I, for example, would have been ever so much nicer to Deborah, a high school flame.
I'd not of spend so much of my childhood watching Hogan's Heroes or my young adult years in a stupor. I'd have been nicer and more productive. Surely by now I should have won a Pulitzer Prize and spent decades hobnobbing with Hollywood stars.

Perhaps there is a form of reincarnation that allows for this. A second time through. But one can hardly count on it. We can, however, count on the here and now. Today is all we have, life's one guarantee. Mental meanderings in our halcyon days are all well and good but should not be overly romanticized or sentimentalized.

Such thinking can lead to misery. Happiness is a byproduct of acceptance and embracing who we are and what we have -- today. How easy to ignore the riches life has bestowed upon us and focus on what we don't have, have not achieved or once possessed.

We must also assume that a string of tomorrows await us and that we can take full advantage of. The phrase, it's never too late, may sound trite but it is also true.

It's said that youth is wasted on the young. As if there is meaning in having everything at once without labor. Generally we got what we need when we need it. Fighting that is futile. And while acceptance is important, but should never be confused with resignation. There is much we can alter and sorting that from those matters out of our control is essential.

I had spent a number of years fighting the reality that I was rapidly getting nearer the end than to the beginning. Death was unthinkable. Literally. But recently, as I've watched a friend day with incredible courage and previously seen my dear old Dad fight for his life to the end, I've changed my thinking. Now I have accepted that life on Earth is terminal, it thus has all the more meaning and provides ever so much joy and satisfaction.

Given the odds against being born in the first place, one should perforce embrace every second. Especially when seeing all the walking dead. Those people in perpetual fogs who cannot appreciate being part of the great game of life. Many blur their brains with drugs or alcohol. Others submerge themselves in hate and anger (they are easy to find on the internet, leaving messages here and there). Some sad sacks live their lives vicariously through television programs thus failing to live their own life. Legions of our fellow travelers spend their waking hours in one way or another mentally numb. Some are emotionally toxic.

Socrates said, "the unexamined life is not worth living." Clearly many people either disagree or fail to heed that message. Regularly taking a good hard look at who we are, what we've done, what we're doing and how we feel, allows us to at once appreciate our time here and make better use of it. Learning, after all, is a life-long endeavor.

So I'm not getting any younger. There is no point at which that was the case. I accept that I am getting older and other than the fact that I'm losing a bit of my boyish good looks, I'm quite fine with my lot. I'm happy to be here. 

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