Wednesday, May 28, 2003

memento mori

the only thing that matters is to be young.
well - not too young: your average seven-year-olds still aren't quite achieving those levels of fiscal autonomy that trigger the standard economic indicators (sweet ole things, economists - translates: spoilt rich kids still aren't quite spoilt and rich enough yet - keep spoiling!).
however, to have to admit to being more than oh, twenty-five years old now is to acknowledge (bites trembling lip, lowers eyes to shuffling feet) that the door to the only truly cool club in town is forever henceforth barred.
it's a cruel but delicious sport to us tiresome mediaevalists - almost as much fun as bear-baiting - spotting that expression of desperate anguish stealing over the face of the high-rolling young dude or dudette who's about to 'celebrate' that disqualifying birthday. it's an expression that's going to be wrapped up in a rictus of denial for the next twenty-five years, as the realisation dawns that all that precious youth has been squandered, and that, from here on in, it's going to cost an awful lot of time and trouble to sustain the ghastly mockery of a resurrection of all that wonderful youthful stuff that they took for granted way back then.
there has to be a better way of dealing with the ageing process than denying it, and yet it's clear that vast swathes of aspirational-but-deluded human beans have walked, open-eyed and open-walleted, into the gilded Hall of Lies that is the cosmetics industry and committed a combined financial resource large enough to rescue the entire planet from hunger and disease to the entirely futile effort to suspend time and undo a few of the principle laws of physics - like that neat one of Newton's that says that gravity attracts everything - apples, breasts, facial skin...
someone has to say it: hey, cher, michael, ivana, arnold, et al (long list) - you don't look young and beautiful, you look like a waxworks dummy! this further flaunting of your obscene and utterly undeserved wealth on a completely wasted attempt to elevate yourselves yet further above the little people makes you look quite RIDICULOUS! you'd be better advised to stick your head inside a brown paper bag inscribed with the words "PITY ME"!
what happened to dignity?
what happened to pride?
seemingly, it does need iterating, since the lesson is not learnt: there are seven ages, people - seven (see below) - and nothing - nothing at all - can prevent the human frame from progressing steadily from one to the other. anyone aged forty who needs to mimic the appearance or behaviour of a twenty-year-old is just a sad sucker living in la-la-land.
think - it's obvous - there are, at any one time, QUITE ENOUGH 20-year-olds in the world to fulfill the natural function of the 20-year-old - to strut around as if they owned the place and were going to live forever and scorn the appearance and opinions and musical tastes of anyone over the age of thirty. to wish to be locked into an endlessly looping reprise of that state is to risk a host of uninvited and unwelcome visitors - psychic as well as physical - gate-crashing such a feast of fools, as well as to have to listen - forever - to oasis and j-lo. think hard. think very hard.
you can't help feeling a tad sorry for them, though. I mean, when you've spent your entire mature life denying that you're growing older, imagine the trauma of having finally to accept that no amount of further stretching, tucking, stapling, stuffing, or re-shaping is going to alter the fact that your innards are reaching their genetically-allotted sell-by date (brought forward, more than likely, by all the toxins you've introduced in order to adjust the exterior bodyscape) and that, short of achieving some kind of total body-replacement therapy (that has to include muscles, nerves, blood vessels, glands, and skeleton, as well as vital organs, eyes, ears, teeth, and hair) you're going to continue to deteriorate, at a vastly accelerated rate thanks to your having destroyed your 'natural' self-repairing processes, until you .......

it cannot be.
I'm rich, I'm famous, I'm supremely powerful, I'm recognised wherever I go, I'm on TV practically around the clock, I've appeared on many many charity telethons - and this was not a cynical but absurdly easy way to get my face associated with good deeds in front of a captive audience of millions who thenceforth would love me even more and buy whatever the merchandising guys decided I needed to sell at the time - no - it was damn hard work - far worse than getting up at dawn day after day and breaking hard-baked soil into tilth for twelve hours at a time with the nearest water-supply a three-hour walk away. no - I did it to help put a smile on the face of those poor starving - but splendidly cute and photogenic - little refugee kids.
I can do whatever I want.
I can have whatever I want.
I can't ...
not yet ...
I'm not ready ...
not yet ...
to ...)

...... DIE!
yup - fraid so - at the end of all this is ...

'twas forever thus, because - contrary to everything it says in the glossies and on TV, we are all
and in truth, whether or not we choose to understand what that means determines whether we are alive or already dead, since the lesser death of ignorance and denial is the only option for everyone who is afraid of being alive - really alive.

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms;
Then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lin'd,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
His youthful hose, well sav'd a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion;
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans every thing.

(As You Like It; ActII.Sc.vii)

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