Friday, June 17, 2016

On Getting Old

Existence accumulates like alluvial deposits in a river. Disillusionments, humiliations, hallucinations, manias, aversions, conflicts, chaos, rocks.
Wrinkles don’t help. Beauty belongs to the young. And we all know how that goes.
Do I feel differently now than I did when I was twenty? Yes and no. Some things change. Some things do not. The things that change are mostly body related. It takes longer to heal. It’s harder to get up from a chair. I have to learn how to urinate all over again because an enlarged prostate demands patience. Women have their problems, too. Menopause. That can’t be fun.
What’re you going to do?
You adapt. You don’t have a choice. You’re on a raft. You’re being carried down a river. There are rapids ahead. You get through the rapids. The water gets still. Then you hear a roar. Is that a roar or a hiss? Is that the wind in the trees or something else? Something scary, like a waterfall. Oh shit, you think, there’s a waterfall ahead.
You don’t appreciate being young when you’re young. How can you? When you’re young you’re young. The bones are forgiving. The muscles are limber. The skin is supple. Innocence is an embarrassment you’re eager to be rid of.
It’s because I’m old that I get to speak in generalizations like this. I was young once and I didn’t feel like this. This takes time.
You need to get old in order to feel young. Why is that? Because when you’re young you’re too inexperienced to know anything else. You can’t feel young if you don’t know what it is to be young. When you’re old, you definitely know what it is to be young. Those sensations don’t go away. Where would they go? They become a part of you. They inform you. They school you. They feed you.
La vieillesse est aussi le moment de goûter le fait d’être en vie comme un bien inestimable, et au fur et à mesure que je me rapproche vraiment de la mort, je goûte la vie comme jamais je ne l’ai goûtée, observes 94 year old French philosopher Marcel Conche. “Old age is additionally the moment of tasting the experience of being alive as an inestimable good, and as I gradually and unequivocally approach death, I taste life like I’ve never tasted it before.”
The older I get the more I need a camel. I have a hunger to see the stars. The afternoon lifts itself into my eyes and I realize there is a limit to life but there’s also the flavor of nothingness to consider, the lure of oblivion, the excitement of murdering distance with Switzerland.  
We inherit the decisions of our youth. That’s the sad part. Or was that supposed to be the good part? I made crazy decisions in my youth. No need to go into that now. Suffice it to say, the man who sits here now once read passages of The Iliad in front of a crematorium during breaks as a factotum in a funeral home.
What happened to that guy? Is that guy still within me? Yes, but he has since retired. He now reads Proust in French at an old brown desk and gets invitations to be cremated in the mail.
He has widened his embrace of the universe. He can smell the fourth dimension.
Think about artichokes. How multilayered they are. The older one becomes, the more multilayered one becomes. Leaf upon leaf upon leaf upon leaf. Youth is the stubborn stuff at the heart. 
I drink my coffee from a Beatles mug. The Beatles never age. Their songs sound fresh every time I hear them. I’ve heard every song at least thousands of times. They age. They get better. I look at John. I look at George. It seems unreal that they don’t exist.
We are in the realm of the immediate. No ideas but in things.
Time imitates the movement of stars.
The snowman in Zen philosophy is a symbol of the nothingness that is at the core of Being. I find youth in snow.  We must learn to imitate the nothingness of snow.
I find it interesting that we need permission for certain things. We all carry with us a set of borders, a sense of what is acceptable and what is unacceptable. This is what makes you old.
You can learn a lot from sugar. It was while waiting for a cube of sugar to dissolve in a glass of water that Henri Bergson learned the true nature of life, duration, and time. He learned that our conception of time is an artificial construct.  Experience is an active process. Categories are just a form of shorthand. We need them for basic communication.
Creativity is protean. Nothing is ever quite as real as the present moment. It is in the present moment where time is water and our minds are sugar. Dissolution is the start of something new. Each moment is a creative act. And so, from hour to hour, we ripe and ripe, and then, from hour to hour, we rot and rot; and thereby hangs a tale.

No comments: