Age is supposedly the great terra incognita, but there is little unknown about the creeping arthritis and the host of other issues I battle daily. What I do know is that all the people who tell me to do anything these days are younger than me. And please save me from those who need to cheer me up with the palliative that 60 is the new 40. I was insecure at 40 and don’t want to return there. Further lie to yourself if you so choose, but don’t impose your fantasies on the rest of us. Looking back as of today, all I can observe is that our generation has done our best and our worst; we have overachieved and underperformed, and we are either basking in the light of perceived success or sucking our thumbs in the anterooms of failure; and given human nature, probably both. Too many of us seems to regret what might have been and wasn’t and over compliment ourselves for what was, not recognizing our finiteness and our insignificance.
68 is not a summit from which I choose to look back and marvel about what a fine fellow I really am. What is certain is that I am over the meridian of my own vital parabolas; and what is equally certain is that I now cannot tell how old anyone under the age of 50 is, they all look 20 something to me. Further don’t plague me with that old saw that you are only as old as you feel; age is an experience not a feeling. I’m old because I remember more. Alas what sometimes frightens me is that I also seem to grow ever more immature, still prone to all those infatuations of youth, still competitive even after all these years, still digging holes and then trying to climb out of them, still fearful of failure, and still not grateful enough for just being live. The only time I am honestly grateful for the gift of life is when I have a sense that it is about to be taken away from me. Note to self, Wake Up!
My children think I must be speaking Greek when I reference 78, 45 and 33. They haven’t a clue. Who and what is a Diefenbaker? what is a miraculous Medal? do you really go around in that black skirt? They have no idea about my world, what we confronted, what we accomplished, what we rejected and what we held onto. It is also noteworthy that Increasingly my focus is not backwards on the miles run, but more on the miles left, and how few they might be. This is one of the biggest changes I recognize in myself at 68, the deep seated realization that my experienced are now rationed. How many more times will the Class of 1952 gather? And if we do gather, how many of us will recognize who the others are? How old was my father when he died, and will I get that far?
So, how did our generation do? Well we have been blamed for being selfish and self-obsessed, for being soft, and for the immense national debt we pass on to our children. We also seem to be ridiculous about food and wine, buy too many things, and are narcissistic in our focus on self-development. But to be fair, we were also committed to human rights, gay rights, disability rights, fairness, equity, freedom from religious authoritarianism and intolerance. The majority of us tore the seamless robe that was our cultural inheritance and set out on a new and unknown pilgrimage to a destination still not yet known. We lived freedom of speech, religion and expression; we just did not talk about it. I think we will might just leave this world better off than when we arrived. In sum, not great but not bad either; how hard it is to accept that perhaps we were just ordinary.
So where to from here? Well, as you know I reject those ideas of an afterlife where some get rewarded and others get punished; and I do not need to reference the will of God to explain away human suffering. I accept the unknown as the unknown, and yes I still believe.
My focus is narrowing and as the Irish used to say, it is time to make your soul. My problem is I don’t relate to soul at all.