There are all these accounts of old men and women explaining how they still feel like a boy or a girl, that they feel just the way they did when they were 16. And sure, I feel like the same person that I was at 16. It’s the same eye sockets that I’m looking through when I regard the world. The same grey hair. Ok, obviously, at 57 my body is substantially different than my scrawnier 16-year-old self. Also back hair. But though it is true that I do feel much in common with that youth—romantic, sad, often ecstatic, open to darkness, absurdity, sentimentality, mystery and immaturity—clearly there’s been change. I’ve three adult children, a wife of 33 years, grandparents, relatives, friends who’ve died of illness, accident, by their own hand, or age. I’ve seen trouble all my days. History unfolding. And also happiness. And, something I couldn’t even begin to conceptualize previously: contentment.
I remember telling my mom, when I was around 16, I rather be right than be happy. I’d rather seek “truth” than happiness. Sure, I thought, some people stand on the driveway raising and lowering their garage doors with a remote and feeling happiness, I wanted to seek deeper truths. I wouldn’t settle for some kind of suburban petit-capitalist compromise. I’d rage, rage and accept no dying light. Or automatic light which turns on as you carry your two plastic garbage bags from the garage to the curb.
Also, I do want to tell that story about the neighbours and how their garage door went up and down everytime a plane flew overhead. Something about the wavelength of the remote. And that time the garage door came down and my mom got her fingers stuck between the panels and had to wait until someone else returned home to rescue her, free climber trapped by her fingers on the suburban wall.
I realized today that I didn’t feel like I was 16, but that I think I might feel how I imagined my 16-year-old self might want to feel. Or that might think he feels. Certainly, he’d appreciate the reduction in panic, anxiety, insecurity and fear of the contingency of life. I’m not “wise” or “confident,” or steadily content, though much more so that when I was 16. And I have the advantage of being able to look back and consider the various ways of seeing, the insights that I might have stumbled on, that I might have worked towards throughout the last 40 years. Much of the world might not seem as new or fresh (which doesn't mean that it doesn't seem like a surprise or wonder) but I can remember when it did.
For example, the moon. Last night in a cottage we’ve rented with our kids and two of their girlfriends, I looked up at the half moon. I could see through the sedimentary levels of awareness and feeling many way I might have thought about the moon over all these decades. I understood that my perception of the moon has a long trail—beginning with the feelings and context that I have now, all the echoes and resonances, memories and stories. And the trail goes back to those first impassioned times looking at the moon as if it were new—it was certainly new for me to look at it and feel these new things as a child, as a teen, as a young man. And O when I realized the capital letter O was the moon O. That parentheses were moon slivers )
I could imagine reversing this looking back. The new moon in all its newness with a long tail, the tail of all its memories and associations reaching behind it into the future. My future now. I live forwards but remember backwards. O ) ) ) ) ) )) A crenelating ripple through time, a wrinkling of the brain. The topography of memory. I do have a garage door now. But it’s not automatic. My wife pierced a hole in its blue surface when she backed a kayak into when parking the car. Did I have the homeowner’s frustration about damage to property or did I delight in the delicious image of a hole, a kayak, a car?