Saturday, 7 November 2015

It appears I'm 70

"It appears," not because I refuse to accept it, but because the whole idea of "being" 70 seems indistinct, somehow. It's a bit like the way people talk about "the 1960s" or "the 1970s." As if a decade was homogenous, consistent, had a reliable bundle of meanings shared by all. For example, the 1970s are often described as a chaotic and frequently depressing time. Well, that depends what you were doing, I guess. Our children were born in the 1970s; life was hard work but, over all, pretty wonderful.

So being 70 is a unique state for each individual - I trust no generalisations. 70 is an abstraction. I feel pretty much as I did three weeks ago. Nothing much has changed. 

But it is changing, of course. We're sliding from autumn into winter this week. I'm moving into old age proper. Please don't call me a senior citizen, or an older person. I'm an old man, and I'm pretty pleased about that. Too many of my contemporaries will never be old men or women.

As an abstraction, 70 is quite useful. It is helping me concentrate on how I want to live for the rest of my life - which might be for five minutes, six months, seven years, who knows? It is helping me distinguish between the things that are worth pursuing, and the things I need to let go of. 

I shan't climb Annapurna, or even the very high passes around it, but I can still give Moel Siabod or the Old Man of Coniston a go from time to time.This isn't just a matter of fitness and bodily strength - it's also about how I think it best to spend my time and energies. And money, of course.

Carpe diem; usually translated from Horace as "sieze the day," but apparently it's closer to "pluck the day" (like fruit) "whilst it is ripe, don't trust the future."

It's my old theme of living in the moment, as opposed to living for the moment. The latter can suggest a frantic and ultimately self-defeating hedonism (at least, I'm told it's self-defeating...) whereas living in the moment, for at least part of the time, is a great help with getting older and coming to terms with mortality.

That is what the water tells me, even on a very ordinary grey day, if I give it half a chance, as it goes about its business of uncountably complex interactions of form, matter and energy - as it is, changing ceaselessly, itself in every moment, entirely present.

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