One of the things that drives this blog and informs its content is that I have a sense of being on the downward part of the hill.
The hill in question being the one they say you’re over when you’re past your prime. Mind you, I’m not far over it, but the path definitely leads downwards these days. As a great poem puts it in another context, “But at my back I always hear, Time’s winged chariot hurrying near.“
[That poem, by the way, is a hoot. It’s about an 17th century guy giving his gal the old line: ‘Time is short, let’s get it on, baby!’ And you gotta love a poem with the couplet, “The grave’s a fine and private place, But none, I think, do there embrace.“]
That prime time hill has two meanings. It can refer to your physical prime, which I think for most is their 20s. By the time you’re twenty—but not before—your brain is fully formed; it’s ready now to really start doing its job.
Your body is also fully grown, so by the time you hit twenty you’re operating pretty much with the you you’ll have from then on. And as with all possessions, how it ages has a lot to do with how you treat it.
I think you can make an argument that your 30s are equally prime if you’ve treated your temple well. (There’s a Jimmy Buffett lyric that goes: “You treat your body like a temple; I treat mine like a tent.” I confess I have some definite tent leanings.)
In your 40s things are starting to show some wear. That’s not to say your temple (or tent) can’t be in great shape. But let’s face it, it’s had twenty or more years of good wear on it now. The idea that, “40 is the new 30,” is a myth invented by 40-year-old people. Cling to it if it makes you happy.
And once you hit 50, it’s pretty clear you’ve gone at least halfway.
Something to keep in mind, though, is that mental clarity and acumen increases well into later life. There can come a point where the mental circuitry itself fails, but it’s no accident that we associate wisdom with age.
A lot of that is just plain experience, and there’s no getting around the time equation with experience. (Not yet, anyway. Who know what nano-machines or chemistry might someday accomplish.)
Point being, we older people might not be able to out-run a twenty-year-old, but we can damn sure out-think you. At least on the cunning and wisdom side of things; math and physics geniuses (and many art geniuses) peak early in life. (With artists, sadly, it’s often due to suicide.)
There is another sense of the prime time hill, and that’s your life actualization hill. The top of that hill is the high point in life, the peak of life. Consider two examples. On the one hand, the canonical “most popular people the high school.” On the other hand, the successful CEO.
A common narrative is that, for some the peak of life comes early and the rest is less or a plateau at best. For others, life ramps upward to a late life peak; in some cases, quite late. Sometimes too late, as for Picasso and other artists discovered posthumously.
[Note to Whovians: The Picasso episode is one of my most favorite Dr. Who episodes. If not this one, then probably The Doctor’s Wife.]
Anyway, point is, my path points to periapsis, and I’m rollin’ into the late night sets. This blog is a chance to lay down some tracks in interweb vinyl, to leave something behind that sings my songs.
That’s a bittersweet simile. If I could do it all again, I think one thing I would really reach for is a life doing music. I grew up with musical parents and have played for nearly all my life. Mom was a music teacher, so naturally I learned to play very early. Very possible that is one of the greatest gifts my parents gave me, to know music like that. But at some point, I decided it exceeded my grasp, and regretfully, I moved on to other interests. (The saving grace is that there many of those.)
But I’ve always dreamed of being a musician. And given a do-over I could pursue it and probably make some sort of living at it, but most likely playing—and not making—music. I have tried my hand at writing music. It’s the poetic equivalent of doggerel (in which I also sometimes dabble).
I’m rarely satisfied being an amateur in something I love; I have a need to do better than that. When combined with my interest in new things, it causes me to move on from things that don’t click. I’ve had a lot of hobbies and interests over the years. Some stick, others are distant memories.
Skydiving, pistol shooting and fishing are all hobbies I’ve gotten into in the last couple decades and all hobbies I’ve moved on from due to dissatisfaction with my own performance. (Of those three, the one I really miss is skydiving; I really loved jumping!)
So this blog is my song (although hopefully not a swan song). I sing to you of what I have experienced along my way, what I believe, what I hold to be true. My tunes are tales of my times, my tests and trials. Memory melodies that may not always be sweet, but I hope never bitter.
Let me leave you now with two other quotes that are favorites. The Marvell poem I opened with (as well as the Buffett lyric), speaks to a core concept I hold dear: carpe diem.
(Of course, that’s Latin for “Carp is the fish of the day.” You often see that on the menu in your finer Latin Fish establishments, such as the very well-known Ruber Locustam Marinam. You’ve never heard of them? Well, they have many locations in every major city, so I don’t know why not!)
The first quote you often see in various forms on plaques and signs. It seems to be attributed to Hunter S. Thompson from his Gonzo Papers (1979-1994). The official version goes, “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”
Other versions include bits about, “…cigar butt clamped between your teeth, scotch in one hand, chocolate in the other,…”
The other is attributed to Jack London and goes like this: “I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.”
Life can be unexpectedly short. When the end does come, I want to be able to say I enjoyed it to its fullest at every moment.
“Stay lively, my friends!”