When I turned the page on my calendar it showed we had entered September. That means my birthday is coming up. I will turn forty-seven years old. The number forty-seven holds no magical properties and that particular age does not signal any great change is my status as person. I have long since passed the magical ages: 16 years old (I can drive without benefit of having a grown up in the car), 18 years old (I can vote, often a disheartening proposition at best), 21 years old (I can buy booze, something I stopped caring about not too long after turning 21), and 30 years old (I can no longer be trusted by the younger generation). The only thing turning 47 years old really means is I am now in shouting distance of 50.
When I say shouting distance I truly mean shouting distance because I am making very loud remonstrations “Whoa there, Sea Biscuit! What’s your hurry? We don’t need to make that turn to the final furlongs with such intensity.”
Even approaching a half a century I don’t really feel all the way grown up. However, there are many times I feel old. When I have been sitting for a prolonged period of time standing up requires making a noise. When I look at my children and realize they are smarter than me. When I tell people I do not have television in my house and they look at me like I just told them I cook over an open hearth and believe the world is flat. When I listen to top forty radio stations the words are unintelligible and the singing sounds like the noise I make when I stand up after sitting for a prolonged period of time.
Inside I still think of myself pretty much the same way I did when I turned 21. Just this past weekend I was in Wichita and I was taking a stroll across a college campus. Very little in the world makes me feel like I feel when I am on a college campus. I truly value learning. I truly value teaching. I adore the bohemian attitude of being a college student. Stepping into the student union there was a very large young man fast asleep on an even larger sofa with his backpack between his knees. Two other guys were playing ping-pong. A boy and a girl were sitting at a table deep in discussion. I prefer to think they were discussing the merits of empiricism versus rationalism because that completes the circuit of a college experience and if they were discussing who would be next to leave the Big Brother house it cheapens the whole thing. All this enhanced my inner concept that I am still a young person exploring the world with wide eyes.
Then I left the union and walked towards some of the other buildings. As I crossed one street a girl-next-door-beauty walked by me, smiled and said hello. That is when I realized I might feel young on the inside but it wasn’t the case on the outside. When I was a young man walking on a college campus, as a fully matriculated student, girl-next-door-beauties did not look at me, smile and say hello. As an overweight, gray-haired middle-aged man the comely co-ed said hello, not because I was even remotely attractive but rather because I was…cute. Not cute in the Jonas Brother way, but cute in the “isn’t it cute how this old guy is walking around campus remembering his salad days” way. Deep sigh.
I simply have to reconcile my inner image of myself (eager explorer of the intellectual world) with the real-world me (middle-aged curmudgeon in training) in order to truly follow the advice of ancient Greece and “know thyself”.
Eager explorer = reader of blogs and internet news services for the latest information
Middle-aged curmudgeon = reading blogs and internet news services and having my blood pressure rise because there are so many idiots out there
Eager explorer = believer that spending time alone allows one to understand oneself on a much deeper level
Middle-aged curmudgeon = believer that spending time alone allows one to get away from all the idiots out there
Eager explorer = gets excited by new ideas and when the creative process is allowed to flourish
Middle-aged curmudgeon = thinks new ideas are just old ideas wearing a bad mustache and sees how the creative process is thwarted at every turn…and something about all the idiots out there
Christopher Pyle clings to the eager explorer but feels the curmudgeon is more cunning and will eventually win out. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.