I’m growing old. Empirically, mechanically and emotionally – I’m older. I know this. I can see it, feel it, touch it. Occasionally, I can smell it, or rather feel the rush of having aged when a smell cuts across boundaries like little else. As we grow older our taste buds reduce in number (or so I’ve read), so I assume I won’t be able to taste getting old. And it seems somewhat cruel that while my ears keep growing, I will hear less and less of life.
But I know I’m getting old because of something else. Because I, late at night, lie there in bed and realise that one day I will die. And I feel angry. And afraid. I listen to my wife breathing and I think that I don’t want to die. I don’t want her to die. I don’t want ‘us’ to die.
I look back at all the times in my life when I have simply been using up time and get angrier still. All the memories and platitudes in the universe are invited, and they all have a philosopical fight club in my head. It doesn’t help. It is futile behaviour. You never think about think club.
But what do I think of, as I lie there, antagonising myself? I think that I will never read all the books I want to read. I will never see all the films I want to see. I will never meet all the people I want to meet. I will never experience all the things I want to feel. Or think I should feel, perhaps is better. None of this has mattered before….or if it did, it mattered only in some kind of league table for ranking middle-class dinner-party guests kind of way. (When did it become the norm for life to become competitive? I suppose we’ve always competed for food or partners or land – now the hunting is of experience….)
But as I said, none of this mattered. I’ve never wanted to travel. I’ve heard myself say it often enough to believe it. I could always travel in my head – to places people could only dream of (intentional irony). There was little point in making friends. Other people just aren’t as interested in me as I would like them to be. As I am. And the irony alarm has just hit the millionth visitor prize and I’ve won a big dollop of self-important brain-custard. Of course, occasionally, people are too interested. A non-celebrity juxtaposition.
To an extent, I simply never really wanted to live. Not in some big melodramatic sense. I just didn’t see the point. Literally, matter-of-factly. Why be another physical organism consuming resources and spreading disease? I virus be.
And now… well, it’s a little embarrassing. I can’t remember the film, but there’s a line where one of the main characters shouts ‘I want to live!’, and… as I say, it’s a little embarrassing. But I lie there in bed, feeling time rush by me in some kind of pre-Neo matrix flow. A flow that has caressed my fellow travellers for billions of years. The flow of time.
And I find myself worrying on an epic scale. I worry about not having time to enjoy myself (enjoy myself!). I worry about not being around for my children (and when they will arrive). My worries invert, like a teenager, and I find I worry about the meta scale to answer the nagging doubts about the micro-level. I find myself worrying about the planet, and politics and the plot arcs of major television series. Will it all end well? And will I live to see it? Will the boy get the girl?
But most of all, in growing old, I find myself closer to stories from my youth. The initial terror at the monster gives way to growing sympathy with Dr Frankenstein – long overdue a rehabilitation, in this day of GM food and flourescent monkeys, surely? (Smile). Because even when I sift through these metaphysical growing pains – and this could simply be early on-set motorbike-crisis – my thoughts return to ‘madness’. To the struggle with duende. To religion and science – to the wo/men who attempt to regulate, predict and explain the ‘flow’.
And from this ‘madness’ I find ‘love’. An irrational attachment between two (or more, must be modern about these things) biological beings capable of language. Love as the ultimate virus. We virus are.
Love as a mechanism for surrendering control over time. It is a reward. An incentive. Time itself is not so poetic. Time – flow – is the one thing we will never control. The one thing we will always run out of. It is no coincidence that most religions end up with an abstract vision of endless time – either through re-invention or some insane concept of eternity. Like the sheer concept of eternity could ever really be explained.
But that is what I hope for now. Eternity. Eternal love. Eternal liff.