Live, damn it! Wolfgang Brolley on raging hard.
Editor’s Note: The author opts for the small “i”…he’s no more important than you or i!
i blame retirement for the fall of (western) man. Or, at least i’m going to blame the modern conception of retirement as being the time when all that we need to do is eat, drink, sleep, and watch TV. No doubt sociology has determined when that shift occurred – from working and being physically capable to the end of our days (shorter though they may have been) to needing to buy long-term care insurance so we can vegetate comfortably before flatlining. At some point, we convinced ourselves that we could and should earn (financially and morally) the right to check out, to stop trying, to sit on our growing asses and watch the waters rise. But, i see this as our first taste of death. A pre-death wherein we give up – completely volitionally – our vitality. Soon to be followed by the full metal jacket.
Years and years ago – i was a young 30 something – in the gym locker room listening to the surrounding chatter, i realized that all the conversation around me was in the past tense, “I remember when I….”, “When I was (pick an age)….”, “I used to….” i found this shocking, disturbing – were all these supposedly active people already living solely in their memories? When did they stop living, really living, in the present? When did they decide to throw in the towel on achievements, on adventures? As far as i could determine, their present ended with college graduation, maybe when they stepped off the varsity field. What the hell was going on here? Was i truly supposed to stop having adventures? Was i supposed to not go on a pilgrimage circumambulating a holy peak in Tibet? Supposed to not go help land mine survivors in SE Asia on my annual vacation? Hiking in the Carpathian Alps in Transylvania – was that out too now? No thanks. As my tough old man would’ve succinctly said, “fuck that noise!” Revoke my membership.
i, for one, will not go gently into that good night!
Before us (or aside from us culturally/geographically) who had this privilege? Who else could say they were done working, hunting, providing, and yet keep living as if they were still contributing to their community? Full disclosure: my very wise (and incalculably brave) mother concluded with a premeditated suicide. When i asked her how she knew she was ready, her first answer was that she no longer contributed to her community. Her second reason? She was ready to give up her earthly existence because she was no longer curious – she would come across a word in her reading that she didn’t know, and she didn’t care about looking it up. She knew that wasn’t her, curiosity was like oxygen to her. And so, perhaps because she lived a life of service, at 79, having endured several small strokes, she knew she was ready to move on.
The wick continued to burn, but the candle was gone. My belief is that we have enabled a fail-safe gene – a mutation that never envisioned embodiment. Psychologically, we’ve initiated the nuclear option – it was never supposed to come to this. We have given our physical being the capability of living 80-100 yrs, but we’ve relinquished the right, the privilege, and the will for fully living all those years. We have ironically mirrored our ancestors, only now do we put ourselves, useless elderly, on the hillsides and in the condos.
To hell with that!
Live, damn it!
i don’t care if you’re 25 or 75. Work out, play, live adventurously. Take chances.
If you’re drawing breath, you’re supposed to be strong. How do you keep strong? You WORK OUT! You move! You do tough things! Tough things for you – whatever that might mean at your current age and capabilities. How do you keep having adventures? You walk out your front door, and you say, “Hell, yes!” If you’re too old for the escapade, you’ll get the message, and some kind soul will help guide you and your walker back to the adjustable hospital bed. But until that time, take a deep breath, put your shoulder into it, buck up, and earn your next story while everyone else in the locker room is saying:
“i remember when i used to…”