“You’re a Bugger, Noel!” An email letter to a melancholic friend.

You’re a bugger; after your comment on Saturday morning about feeling your age and its effects on your physique and your psyche, I’ve started to worry I was missing something or at worst, ignoring something about my health and I’m a good ten plus years older than you.

Re the physical, effects, that’s bloody obvious and something I accept, then put to the back of my mind and/or ignore. It’s just happening and you can’t change it, just accept and manage. The purely physical, gradual processes can be managed and I can live with the stiff knees, sore ribs and joints first thing or late on. Paracetamol is a great alternative therapy. Exercise is necessary and both alleviates and at the same time, increases the sources of strain. 

Psyche is a totally other sphere. I know there is so much I’ve missed through time and focus on other things and I equally know that there’s a lot more I want to learn/know( these aren’t necessarily the same things). Hence the mad rush to read, google, see or hear as much as I can BUT I don’t think I’ve put an age limit on the agenda! I don’t; or didn’t, really think of this in terms of there only being left x amount of years or even days. Maybe I’m too blasé but I didn’t worry too much apart from a selective, mental list of ways I wouldn’t like to die, and by that, I mean the way I’d leave Mary, Lil, Tom plus friends and family behind. The actual process may be different depending on how much I knew about it or felt it. 

I’ll stick in a comment I made about a month back, re Faust:- “ The first lines of Faust’s part are so Sebald: “How much can you ever learn yet still not be satisfied?”  On first reading, Goethe focused Faust’s downfall on a want for wealth as reward for his great knowledge, whereas Sebald wants mental satisfaction of knowing who you are in terms of human and national history ( if I’ve read him right?)  Suppression of memory denies self-knowledge. I don’t therefore conclude that Faust is shallow in wanting tangible wealth but that tangible wealth he craves represents all the wants of humanity outwith mental peace of mind: self-value rather than a judgment on tangible outward signs of wealth. ( Almost a parody of the Christian idea of, “ outward signs of inward grace,” in reference to the Sacraments! I don’t know enough of Goethe to posit that as a valid source but I want to work on it. “

I’ve been lucky, I’ve seen a lot, enjoyed a lot, loved a lot, laughed a lot and I hope there’s some more to come. Regrets, yes, there are some but I take that as life’s gamble. Compared to the lives of my remembered ancestors, I have been fortunate; no poverty, no massive illnesses, unemployment, wars, incarceration, torture and humiliation, etc. There have been blips and crap moments but overall, so far, nothing compared to those of  my parents and grandparents and their respective families and friends. 

Anyway, returning to my original comment, you’re a bugger who has started me thinking and that’s dangerous. I don’t have high religious hopes or even beliefs. Teaching RE for 20 years and the contradictories within beliefs vis-a-vis practice plus the hypocrisies that were manifested/are still manifested, dulls that strand. I’m minded to that chunk of Macbeth when he says, 

“ Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.” 

It’s pretty bleak and it’s about the mortality of Time, our limited Time, but I don’t feel that bleakness. We live, we do what we do, hopefully to the best of our abilities then…… it’s over and two generations down the line, so what? If we leave a decent inheritance, not necessarily financial, for our children and possibly grandchildren, then fine. The political and environmental heritage is something we also leave behind and that’s an  equally important legacy. Memory of me, as I said, will go after two generations and then myths set in to me, the reality is that History is a construction by succeeding generations.  Mind you, Mary has decried my interpretation and brought the focus of this speech back to Lady Macbeth’s condition. Personally, I still think it’s apt in my interpretation.

This is not meant to be a depressant, rather I feel positive about life and I hadn’t really couched it in terms of having reached 70 hence there is x time left when x=current age – life expectancy for someone with my history, genetic DNA., habits etc. Even the death of my mate Iain in November didn’t really bring me to worrying as it was just part of life. Like me, he’d lived, loved, enjoyed, had his own positive as well as negative experiences but he’d enjoyed it through to 74 then over and out. I’ve much older friends who’ve gone through so much and more but at 80 and even 85, still roll on enjoying what they’ve got over what’s gone. Yep, there are moments when they feel sadness at loss of partners or children but, they’re still here and that’s what matters. Some are religious, some agnostic and some more akin to Humanist, but they’re not merely peddling a belief system as a panacea; it’s their meaning for their life. Me, I belong to the Terry Wogan school of Philosophy:- I don’t believe in Heaven but when I die and I arrive there; if there is one, then you do know how  I love a surprise party! 

I don’t want to die, just yet!  I don’t want to die in some hospital ward or care home. I don’t want to die in x, y or z painful or miserable process.  Essentially, if I had a choice, I’d die of my own time and pace. I’d know it and face it! Ideally, I’d be cycling in the countryside, pull off into a bit if woodland and, smiling, keel over. Don’t worry, I’ve not got an urgent urge to do it. (There are a few other positive scenarios involving the Lake District or Kent Coastline.) As Tom says, if it really should be bad, then it’s the one-way ticket to Zurich! Probably I’d have to pay my own fare. 

Now all this crap above comes from your Melancholia about ageing. Knocked years off me writing this, it did. At least Palace made up for England’s no show in the second half. Enjoy your day. 
Originally written 3rd March 2019

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