Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Saturday, 1 January 2011

The pits and the epiphany

Went to bed in a foul, self-critical mood, grinding out a mantra: no more about ageing, no more about bloody ageing. Until Younger Daughter and I flipped through some of my recent posts, courtesy of her Iphone, I hadn’t realised how the subject had tainted the latter part of the WW year. Ageing isn’t fun, but it’s even less fun to read about. Too late Plutarch came up with the following from Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book of aphorisms, The Bed of Procrustes: “Here's another, which I personally find rather close to the knuckle, and therefore all the more true as far as I am concerned: The only objective definition of ageing is when a person starts to talk about ageing."

So from now on imagine me as I was in 1975, forty years old, full of professional arrogance, just awarded my first editorship – which is how I still see myself when times are good. Not likeable but likely to say something unexpected. A constantly spiky terror to those who were in charge of me.

But I must be honest. Knowing I could purge this discovery, as I am doing now, I relaxed to a newly remembered experience. At midnight we crowded round the French window to watch the New Year fireworks. There were fewer this year but we were compensated - sky lanterns, released in dozens, elegant domes of flame floating determinedly north towards the Malverns. At first I was struck by a sense of community (the kids released one of their own) but the word is too passive. What we were seeing was a dynamic community, one on the move. An affirmative display. And on they flowed.


Rouchswalwe said...

Dynamic energy. Yes! I was quite taken by the silver balloon celebration last night in Tokio. Upon release, the silvery orbs flew up until they looked like the Milky Way far above.

The Crow said...

Talking about aging is a natural consequence of the process. We begin to notice the changes, some of which are merely amusing; others, a bit more troubling and need to be noted, so to be aware of future changes.

For instance, last week I awoke to discover my hands and forearms were suddenly dotted with pale freckles of varying degrees of darkness. Where the heck did those come from?

Surely, what Taleb meant by his aphorism, but was the victim of his overzealous, space-stingey editor, was this: "The only objective definition of ageing is when a person starts to talk exclusively about ageing."

That's not you, BB; not at all.

On a more cheerful note: sky lanterns! I must learn to make those this year, to help celebrate the magic and wonder and joy that still exists in being human.

Plutarch said...

A cheerful beginning to the new year, and a cheerful conclusion to a melancholy post. Resolution no one in my very personal list of permanent as distinct from seasonal resolutions: "Be cheerful".

herhimnbryn said...

Onwards! Happy New Year BB.

Sir Hugh said...

I welcome the proposed shift of emphasis.

The management years from age 40 to 48, give or take a year or two were the golden years. During that period I found I had half a chance of other people taking notice of what said, and I do not wholly refer to my staff, but mainly my customers and potential customers. It was strange to find that they were seeking my advice.

Barrett Bonden said...

RW (zS): I would expect Japan to do even better than Herefordshire. But the sensation is a shared one. The lanterns are released by individuals and it's impossible not to think in terms of their hopes and fears being represented.

By the way, in discussing WW with Younger Daughter she mentioned one of your contributions which I should have acknowledged earlier. the extension of Zach into The Zachster. He'll like that when he's a little older.

The Crow: It's nice of you to say that and skilled of you to change the tone of the quote with just one word. Also to find the way to my heart with a bit of mock-slagging: "overzealous, space-stingey editor". But I have over-indulged, mainly because there are unexpected revelations from the process. That's not sufficient justification, however, and I shall be far more sparing in future.

Plutarch: There's a risk (which you have already identified on your blog) in the slogan Be Cheerful. For the moment I'd like to adopt Be Unexpected which carries other risks and may have to be changed, in a month or so, to (Try to) Be Unexpected.

HHB: Onwards, indeed. But where's the compass indicating?

Sir Hugh: I was only trying to evoke a state of mind, never mind whether or not it was recognised or appreciated by outsiders. Three years after the date I cited I made one of the worst decisions of my life which in effect took nearly five years out of my development as an editor. Worse still, the blessed solution arrived independent of any of my efforts. As I say, just a guideline.