No, that's not a misprint in the title. It's a polite way of expressing an opinion.
I've decided that old age is for the old, and I define "the old" as those who have decided to enter old age. (Just to avoid stepping in a really big one, let me make clear at the outset that I exempt from everything that follows those who for medical or psychological reasons have to cope with tragically diminished capacity.) I'm talking about those of us for whom most systems continue to function and whose heart, as Mel Brooks once put it, has not attacked them.
We obviously inhabit a blessed period in which medicine and a heightened awareness of how to live in a healthy fashion have increased our expected life span. Many of us can look forward, if a bit apprehensively, to eight or even nine decades in this vale of tears--which, I have to admit, I've found extremely rich in enjoyment. Maybe I've been doing it wrong.
They say that time flies when you enjoy yourself, and it certainly has for me. Here I am all of a sudden, by my own standards an old guy. I'm older now than my father was when he died, older, it seems chronologically, than the Old Testament. And you know what? I say, fuggit.
Shakespeare's Seven Ages of Man notwithstanding, I've decided to lengthen my stay in the Fifth Stage, the Justice, while attempting to avoid the rounded belly, and stave off as long as possible the attitudes and mental habits that hasten our progress into the Sixth and Seventh, which, according to Shakespeare, is second infancy. While I assumed I enjoyed being an infant, returning to that stage has few charms.
There are few things I could do 30 years ago that I can't do now, and there are some things I do better now than at any earlier point in my life. I have the great good fortune of having spent most of my life in a state of mental hyperactivity and to have married a woman who reminded me, and continues to remind me, that my body needs activity, too. I wake up every morning thankful for the years I've had and the fun I've had in them and fully expecting to continue in this state for some time to come.
I will continue to write, I will continue to read, I will continue to listen to music both consciousness-expanding and trivial, I will continue to invest time rather than spending or wasting it, although I'll waste some in moderation. I will continue to pursue a few selected bad habits in moderation. I'll do whatever the hell I want, in moderation. I will chase everything I desire, whether or not I think I can catch it. I will not worry about my dignity or what's appropriate.
I will stop using the word "appropriate," which is a blight on the English language. When a Conressman is caught attempting to molest a page boy or girl, the word for that behavior is a lot stronger than "inappropriate."
I will not stop thinking I have the right to criticize the way people abuse the language, or for that matter, the institutions of government. Seniority has its privileges, and grumpiness is among them.
So is a certain amount of selfishness. As the amount of time left shrinks, I think we can all be excused for focusing more intently on the things that matter most. So the lion's share of my energy in the upcoming years will be devoted to three things that have always been important to me, but which become more important as I get older. First, to deserve the woman who married me. Second, to write the best books I can, and as many of them as possible. Third, to wring the largest possible amusement out of life, whether that's reading Shakespeare or watching "Storage Wars."
Whose life is it, anyway? If it isn't mine by this time, I really have been doing it wrong.
Tim -- Sundays