Reading this passage in David Gimmell’s Legend I was reminded of my own aging process:
“The old man crumpled the letter and let it fall. It was not age which depressed Druss. He enjoyed the wisdom of his sixty years, the knowledge accrued and the respect it earned. But the physical ravages of time were another thing altogether. His shoulders were still mighty above a barrel chest, but the muscles had taken on a stretched look – wiry lines which criss-crossed his upper back. His waist, too, had thickened perceptibly over the last winter. And almost overnight, he realised, his black beard streaked with grey had become a grey beard streaked with black.”
There’s a moment when it hits you, when you realize without doubt you too are mortal. The process of decay, the loss of energy, the slow pains from early sports and athletics, the injuries from youth in muscles and bones; all of it comes back to haunt you, a presence that awakens in your flesh like deep seated memories of past triumphs and losses. One either fights it or gives in to it, depending on the kind of creature you are. I’ve fought it, and will continue to labor against this shambles I’m becoming. I know now it’s a losing war, but I’m still winning the small skirmishes and battles.
Isn’t that what matters? Why? I’ve asked myself that question for years, seen what the pessimists say is at the end of the road, offering their dark portents and toxic wisdom of the worm and tomb. But no… I realized a few months back that I’m not that; I’m neither hopeful, nor in denial, and yet I will not give in to the malevolence of this indifferent universe and its meaninglessness. We have a gift for gab, for stories, for illusion…. whether its good, bad, or ugly it’s what sets us apart. To say it’s the exception is to be derogatory in our contemporary philosophies, so no it’s not the exception but the rule. Whatever dark gods of flesh and mind brought us forth from the slime pools of ancient seas and began that slow process of evolution that led to us through chance and necessity … we’re here; no one can deny that, and we dream, we envision, we adapt, we ponder the impossible; and, in the face of insurmountable odds we become heroes or cowards, or both in a region of imagination and reason unlike anything else we know of on this bright earth. We’ve created myths, legends, tales, and… yes, sciences to invent, create, and explain what it is we are and what it is we live in. For this I will not degrade mine or anyone else for being alive for this one unique moment in existence, even if it is for naught.