Having survived the Winter Solstice, and having this morning awoken with anticipation to our first full day in the condo on the beach, I commence settling into the not unwelcome routine of vacation. This year is especially noteworthy for me not only because I carry on rejoicing in the generosity of the past month but also because I mark a point of departure. Apart from recent commercial attainments (long-awaited conditions precedent to moving forward), it is equally important to me that I have attained the age of 65 years, a milestone which I view as a landmark in my life. Why it should be so I am not entirely certain, but nonetheless the event marks for me no less than a time for contemplation and personal rejuvenation.
I am philosophically aware that in life there is neither a past nor a future, only the present, yet I am haunted by both the past and the future. In an attempt to foil the drama of either I hope to capitalize upon the present. This exacts among other things recognition of what it is about the present that draws me and making the most of it (if for no other reason than that time is running out). In my present circumstances this is a calling happily to be desired as there is so much about the present for which I am thankful and in which I am delighted to regale. Without being smug about it, the present represents for me the culmination of what has been years in the making. I won’t tarnish the sentiment by repeating such trite observations as “I have worked hard and I deserve it”, something I suspect everybody can say in spite of the pinnacle of achievement they might or not have reached. I firmly believe that whoever you are life is by and large hard and that it is only luck which distinguishes one’s prosperity from that of another. Lest one be persuaded to come flying to the support of those who “keep their nose to the grindstone” I remind you that there are so many intervening trials in life which have nothing whatever to do with commitment to one’s private avocation and which can in an instant derail what might otherwise have been a trajectory of fame and fortune.
I therefore confine my revelations to acknowledgment of my luck and the perhaps instinctive contrition to feel grateful for it. Although life is a thankless taskmaster and neither requires nor expects anything in return (so much for appeasement of the gods) I even so feel an obligation to behave other than rapaciously. As a matter of pure logic it makes sense to approach one’s maturity with a degree of wisdom and this naturally summons the attributes of intellectual and emotional superiority, among them patience, moderation, understanding, etc. Too often in the past I have tossed these qualities overboard as so much unnecessary baggage, sometimes as a dilution of life’s treasures, at other times as a token accession to ephemeral gentility, sometimes as the product of blunt ignorance and nearsightedness. The result of the more reasoned governance is a muting of spontaneity, a reaction to life retarded by second-thoughts and retrospection. My days of impulsiveness are all but exhausted and I view restraint as small accommodation. I venture to say as well that the mining of life’s reserves may indeed require refinement as one transforms into old age.
Regrettably I acknowledge that my contemporary bliss is the very product of the luck to which I have eluded and has little to do with any new-found brainpower or higher purpose. I know also that such elation is easily battered. I can only hope that my old-style hastiness will be trumped by having raised my sights. Yet I know from experience that it takes as little as a seemingly innocuous comment (“Have you got a hankerin’?”) to put me over the edge in an instant. All my high resolution can dissolve in a jiffy when I gleefully imagine the immediate gratification of my cravings. I am however reminded: “You only turn 65 once!” My historical reason for servicing my so-called needs was in fact a cheap effort to smother my anxieties about the past and the future. Those anxieties were really nothing more or less than a perpetual obsession with fulfilling my duties of performance, the pressing obligation I have felt since I was a student to do my best and later in life to fulfill my professional responsibilities. It wasn’t so much the burden of those tasks which weighed me down as the relentlessness of them. I may be deceiving myself to think there can ever be a sustained change but for the time being at least I charm myself to believe that my days in harness are virtually over whether by design or as a mere accident of aging.
Life has become more a science and less a romance. This is not to suggest that life is no longer an adventure, only that its exhilaration is prompted more by reason than passion. I take the view that turning 65 years of age is as good a time as any to launch myself along a new course. It isn’t a matter of disregard of what one already has or anything as frantic as moving house or changing acquaintances but rather simply adopting a new perspective, scholarship vs desire. What is critical about the timing is that the opportunity will only be afforded once, the opportunity to make an irreversible decision. Of course nothing is irreversible and likely there is nothing especially magical about any point in time. Yet it is to be acknowledged that a point in time may nonetheless have significance. It requires a capitulation, an overthrow of the past and an espousal of the future. Turning back involves only needless and tiresome repetition. Granted there are the undeniable milestones – birth, life and death – but it is only I who can create another. I suspect others have attached importance to one date or another, some for good and some for bad. It gratifies me to think that I can create my own new beginning and follow it through.