Having reached the age when most women are no longer physically attractive and most men are no longer physically competent we survivors must make do with the reasonable other capabilities and accomplishments granted living things who have managed to maintain existence through the hailstorm of destructive possibilities that assails us in our passages through time and space.
The world itself, of course, is infinitely fascinating and novel. Its intricacy is continuously exposed moment by moment and like any living thing, even old people are given the possibility of confronting something out of reality and having to decide whether to fear and flee from it, run to it to engage with it in some manner or ignore it totally. Running and fleeing is not a particularly complex effort, whatever its mobile limitations, but engaging has all sorts of variations.
As one ages and experiences a plethora of rather similar objects and incidents one is tempted to ignore a good deal of them as standard idiocies and superfluous nonsense and so sink into a miasma of memories of how great things were eighty years ago before humanity had the initiative to cleverly destroy a good deal of the beauty and variety the world had to offer but, as powerful as humankind has become, there are still many natural resources untouched and ready to be ravaged by human vandalism. One cannot but remember of all those delicious things with extraordinary flavors and textures that current digestive processes can no longer deal with and which the depletion of masticatory sensors no longer detect sufficiently. Some of us people retain enough agility and physical ease to enjoy a fraction of what we were but I’m afraid hang gliding appears to be a very distant possibility.
Positively, one can admire something and engage it in conversation, examine it closely and attempt to puzzle out its function and utility, bite it and test its flavor, package it and store it in a closet for future use, or, perhaps, sell it to gain something else of known value.
When confronting a pretty girl, the Mona Lisa, a gorilla, a hamburger or a housefly one must be rather careful as to which one of these options to choose.
This is a rather limited menu to examine but it gives one some entrance into the possibilities.
Conversing with pretty girls has various possibilities, none of which impinge on those motives which drove us when our hormones had all the power of hydrogen fusion. Nevertheless, quite a few are still worth aesthetic study and tease nostalgia in sadly pleasant but somewhat disturbing ways. And conversation itself can be amusing and informative on the level of linguistic exercises with newly arrived explorers from interstellar space. I have never had the opportunity to converse with a gorilla and the protocols, I suspect, may make the effort a bit on the chancy side but nevertheless, if the opportunity arises, I am open to try.
Through the years there is a satisfactory constant degree of conversation ability with cats, dogs, birds and squirrels and with topics of human politics is at least as useful in discussion with them as with fellow humans. We never discuss religion since their view of the supernatural is radically at variance with those of human theologians and I have the uneasy feeling the animals have it down far better than they do.
Hamburgers and houseflies are a total loss for conversation and flavor testing is tempting with one and not the other. Since I avoid meat these days I am not terribly sure which one to test and I may be prejudiced since houseflies have never offered me the opportunity. I may be missing something extraordinary. Just ask any frog.
One can visually converse with the Mona Lisa to one’s advantage but verbal attempts are a total loss and would probably lead to a quick invitation by the Louvre to exit. Biting attempts would probably arouse all sorts of vigorous but interesting difficulties.
As one reaches and moves beyond the average age attainments the world steps further and further away. Beyond the age of seventy-five or eighty one notices a definite drop in interest in employment opportunities. Maturity of this quality seems not at all marketable on football teams or even in basketball. Never being much of a sportsman this does not bother me too much but openings in astronautics and ballet seem disappointingly non-existent as well. I would think us feeble minded folk could perform wonders in automobile destruction derbies since our record on the highways indicates real talent in the area but I have yet to see any want ads.
Politics, of course, would seem a natural since even the younger members of Congress persistently act with the doddering incompetence of people locked up in homes for the aged for fear they are a danger to themselves. But that requires sponsorship by corporations or drug lords or such and most of us have never been “made men” nor killed anyone on orders. Luck, like Lotto aids very few.
One must, after all, in a capitalist world, find a market for one’s remaining accomplishments. My hearing in the upper frequencies is not as good as it used to be. The lens in my left eye is a bit cloudy but my right eye is fine and I read distant signs without glasses although I do use glasses for reading computer screens and books. My remaining physical capabilities, which I execute with vigor and expertise, is sneezing and farting and I have a fair chance of qualifying professionally.
So we must loll in our rockers and fondle cats and dream of high adventure. And scour the newspaper obituaries each morning for people we have known and admired and who have left the upper venues of fame to mysterious newcomers who never attain the same beloved competence.
Death, which in our vigorous years loomed on the distant horizon like a small black thundercloud, is now monstrously overhead, swirling and swishing in eager patterns and hungry for the strike. Living forever did not seem all that impossible long, long ago but when one gets a headache that lasts more than an hour or eating something not quite right that causes internal rumbling and a mid-section twinge one begins to accumulate tiny doubts.
I still sleep fairly well and my dreams remain very vivid, exciting and extremely inventive and colorful. Technology has yet to arrive where these dreams can be recorded and sold but I’m sure to achieve some marketable salability as soon as this can be managed. I’ll try to hang on for the next fifty years or so when this comes about. It appears to be a lucrative field.
So it’s this death thing that gets a hold on you once you hit 80 or so. I am not particularly anxious to find out how it is like but the curiosity remains a major issue for contemplation. Since I have never found it possible to take the standard religious conceptions of a post death existence seriously I can only assume it would be a mere cessation of functions and of course my main concern would be how the sensory apparatus dies out. Much of the speculation in the area likens death to a kind of sleep but sleep itself is a strange experience. I have had a few dreams where I was conscious of being asleep and even experimented as to what kinds of control I could exert on my experiences which was sort of fun. But I have also found myself in very stressing dream situations and my only emotion was an extreme sense of urgency to get the hell awake. This can be a real nightmare if waking does not occur immediately and when this happens I feel very reluctant to surrender myself to sleep again. On occasion I have stayed awake for most of the night rather than sleep again.
If dying is a sense of being sucked into a permanent sleep I have decided I’d rather not do it.
In dwindletime the crumblefolk go stumblefoot.
The minuteswifts rain tumbledown to dribblegone.
From hopelesscracks ooze mysteries of absolute
Convoluting histories. Encephalon
Sags toffee soft with mushysweat.
The scramblefest from septicflesh is panicnailed.
But twilightflight is moribund in dunregret.
Sireneloam sings quietus with appetite.
Fagendspurts buglecalls for finalshout
And heralds windup fizz to Sunputout.