Take it or leave it.

Friday, May 29, 2015

MY HALFTIME SHOW


So I'm sitting with my father on his 76th birthday and I ask him what he sees for himself, you know, on the horizon like. An avid viewer of sporting events he puts it pretty succinctly when he says, "I'm in the 4th quarter of my life." And he is, when you think that most men die before the age of 100, so he's in the last 25 years of the game.

I made no reply, though to myself I remember thinking, the fourth quarter is really when the action gets good, events their most exciting, 'specially if it's college bowl day. The same can be said for NFL playoffs, though that can be hit or miss. So the fourth quarter can be a pretty cool place to be, provided you're still in the game. If it's a blowout, then well, some people just blow on out. My dad does own a couple firearms, not that he'd ever use them on himself. He's too much of a narcissist.


And really, my dad's still very much into playing the game of his life. Active law practice. Cutie wife 18 years his junior. The occasional Saturday night at the Body Shop on Sunset, but only when his sweetheart's out of town and his hormone's a-racin' - whatever's left in those steamed clams he calls balls, name the movie. Boy still has his mojo, does dad, and some of his hair, though I think I mentioned he's lost much of his sense of humor. Grumpy old man much?


But the guy is more restless than I am. There is something adolescent about his quick temper and moodiness. Always fidgeting, he spends his life on the edge of his seat. Whereas for me, the only time I am on the edge of my seat is when I am sitting in his hot rod sports car and he is taking corners at 60-plus. I'm white-knuckling it there with my dog on my lap, and it's the only time I've ever seen Max both shiver and pant at the same time. Dagnabbit!

USA Today recently ran a segment on how the life expectancy for Americans is higher than it's ever been. The average man can expect to live to 80; women closer to 85. This excludes infant mortality and early death, murders, suicides and the like, factors which if factored in skew the life expectancy towards a much earlier demise. As in Classical Rome, where the average was only 30-35 years, though if you could live to see 30 you'd likely live to be twice or thrice that. In other words a person living today who has reached 65, and therefore survived the effects of shoddy medicine, poor sanitation and risk-taking behaviors, can expect to live another 15 to 20 years.

I'm a pretty clean liver, so at the age of 42 I'm halfway to the end. To put it in my father's terms, I'm in the halftime of my life. Historically philosophers live to a ripe old age. Goethe and Voltaire and Spencer and Santayana all reached their 80s or close to it, as did the Indian sage Nisargadatta Maharaj. Ramana Maharshi was a spring chicken when a tumor took him at 70, the same age at which Socrates met his untimely demise, but the poor dude was branded a rabble-rouser and made to drink hemlock.


So I took a moment to reflect on what I have accomplished in my 4 decades of living, and what I still have yet to achieve. Thus far I've lived abroad (twice), learned a couple foreign languages, earned a graduate degree, run several marathons, written as many books, lived on my own, shared space with a sweetheart or two, worked various jobs from the menial to the managerial to the medical. I've traveled around the world and done a lot of drugs, some decent, others not so much, and read a ton of books and had a lot of sex, some - well, there has been sex. Still seeking a good time I guess. So, what's next?

Well, if you believe psychiatrist Jay N. Giedd writing for Scientific American, who in his article on the teen brain explains that "In the US, attainment of an adult role (is) often characterized by such events as getting married, having a child and owning a home" - all there is left for me to do is . . . grow the f*&^ up!

By Giedd's definition I am still in diapers! And yet I feel like an old man! Some old dudes do wear diapers, sad but true. What I mean is, I feel as if I have lived my life, that there is nothing more for me to do. I want only to be. Call me complacent. And yet it is oddly freeing. Besides I know several people who have been married and have kids. Some even own their own home - which they'll be paying off for the remainder of their lives. And yet these nice people are some of the most immature cats I know! There has to be more to adulthood than what (and who) you own!

As the actor Jeff Bridges has said, quoting a Zen saying: After ecstasy, the laundry. Which also is the title of a book. What does this mean? Enlightenment is not the end of the road, but the beginning. After you see things as they are, the goings-on of daily living don't change all that much. But how you go about things does change, as does your outlook, and how you react to life's events.

"Once you're in on the joke," says Bridges, "you can take care of business." Out of the mouth of the Dude himself.


The good Maharaj once said something similar when he remarked that the butcher after becoming realized doesn't go off into the mountains to pray and meditate but continues to chop up pigs for a living. So simple it's profound. Bridges would call this plorking, or worlay, terms he has invented for the combination of play and work. It's not what you do but the spirit in which you do it. Besides, those pigs are already dead.

Interesting to note that maximum lifespan has remained the same for 2000 years, at around 122 years young. Mostly it's females who live to see such a hoary age. If I reach this expiration date (the year will be 2095, by God) it means I'm only 1/3 of the way through this game called life. And already my youth is behind me. (Though I still have no gray hairs, praise be.) Middle age followed by withered and rickety senescence is what I have to look forward to. Don't we all. No wonder there aren't many dudes who stick around to see the century mark. The male ego is much too fragile.

A girlish 114. If I ever look like this, please just shoot me.
But wherever I am, and wherever, it doesn't really matter. One thing is for sure: I am. Whether the me is fat, bald and happy, or old and wrinkled and irritable, living alone or barely tolerating a life partner, married with (great grand)children or cutting up meat to make ends meet, it'll be the same I shining through those glaucomatous cataracts I once called eyes. What you do is not the issue. It's who you are that counts. Now excuse me while I go live the second half of my life. 
 
I'm thinking of maybe becoming a pimp.


No comments:

Post a Comment