by L.G. William Chapman B.A., LL.B.
We all know those rose-cheeked folk whom one suspects as having been born with a riding crop in hand and who profess to have no regrets. They invariably adopt a firmness of purpose and are prepared to re-enact every particular of their ineffable lives. I’m sorry, but my inclination is rather to let well enough alone. What’s done is done! Indeed even a bit of camouflaging dust thrown upon the tracks of the past is not in my opinion either unmerited or undesirable. Frankly there are things I never want to do again. Now don’t get me wrong, I haven’t to my knowledge any unpardonable offence to hide. There are simply certain dramas the repetition of which I can cheerfully bear the deprivation.
Take, for example, school. With respect to our devoted educators, as buoyant as one might become upon the subject in retrospect, I ask you, who in their right mind can honestly say that they liked school! I mean, what’s there to like about having to remain mum and glued to a singularly uncomfortable bit of pine plank for prolonged periods with nothing more refreshing on the horizon than knowing that later you’ll have to spend hours memorizing the principles which have just been paraded before you. It’s a sentence, not a learning experience! For all the enthralling things which have been uttered in song and poetry about reading, writing and arithmetic, I have to say that the experience is more a fantasy supported by voodoo folklore and failing memory than anything else. Back then, school was for most of us nothing short of a hardship to be endured. So humdrum was the undertaking (though I thankfully survived it and thus escaped a condemnation which would likely have been worse by comparison) that I would, for example, never consider going back to school for any amount of structured learning.
There are nonetheless certain individuals who spoil the averages by positively pining for higher learning – consider the chap who after a career as a bureaucrat decided to study theology. But those hyperboles are diverting more for their infrequency than otherwise. Perhaps in one’s latter years, the classroom holds other attraction, but to my thinking the trade-off is disproportionally against the likelihood of advantage. In any event the whole point of getting older is to cultivate the nuances of one’s private philosophy, something which requires the absence of interference except from the learned minds of the past specifically by way of leisurely examination of the ancient texts in the comfort of one’s drawing room. There comes a time to hang up the runners and ruminate upon yesteryear.
While getting a job is right up there with acquiring an education, the process is distinctly not something I wish to repeat either. My particular aversion to the enterprise is compounded by my inherent lack of political will, by which I mean I am more individualistic than corporate. I am not prepared to sacrifice my principles by acting in the interests of status within an organization. My object in life has always been to be independent and self-reliant even to the point of compromising, if necessary, creature comforts in order to preserve dominion over the conduct of my personal affairs. This is a luxury which most can ill afford in the budding stages of one’s career, and thus one is obliged to submit to the hiring mechanism to secure a foothold in the world of commerce. I am amused to hear of people who, after decades of having done one thing or another, choose to set themselves adrift in the hopes of finding a new and often unrelated business or calling. While I admire the enthusiasm, if the task involves applying for employment, I’ll give it a miss, thank-you!
Church is another hot topic in this context. Based upon what I’ve heard recently, the numbers of the congregation are dwindling steadily and maybe even exponentially. This naturally recalls that there was at one time a healthy congregation, something which is no mean observation considering the number and variety of local places of worship. Many of the older members of the community such as myself were raised in the bosom of the church. In fact as a youngster I literally attended church every day and twice on Sundays. For good or for worse, that pattern has lately been disrupted. Rather than fuel the fires of polemic, I prefer to rest my current preference upon a combination of factors which, temporarily at least, have caused me to distance myself from this particular form of association. I acknowledge that the choice is not dissimilar to throwing the baby out with the bath water, and yet the preponderance of evidence worldwide is in my opinion unfavourable. I am quick to add that my decision does not embrace anything larger than organized religion, that is, the controversy does not include the more far-reaching contemplation of the Almighty. As the world becomes smaller and smaller it is inevitable that we should bump up against the need for some comparative thinking and for the time being that has succeeded in immobilizing me in this particular sphere.
On a less heady subject, I am bound to include in my inventory of preferred abstinence no less than alcohol, dreadful subject that it is! I am the first to admit that a frozen martini was traditionally a glory not lost upon me. Now however I relegate the pleasure to youth and others more capable of withstanding the assault. Increasingly I find the visceral delectations of life are being overtaken by the cerebral, dare I say the spiritual. No doubt this development is no anomaly, but rather a mere by-product of aging generally and likely a small compliment as a consequence. Given the competing demands upon one’s strength, it is perhaps easier to face the music of another day without the contamination of the juniper berry (though admittedly its reputed remedy for rheumatism and arthritis makes the case less compelling). Nonetheless on the balance I am now prepared to look wistfully upon my hardier days of delight and cheerfully supplant them with Nature’s less provocative rewards of mind and soul.
I’m guessing that everyone knows the 1937 show tune from the Rogers and Hart musical Babes in Arms entitled "The Lady is a Tramp", the one about the gal who "doesn’t bother with people she hates". I don’t know about you, but I’m there! Having to put up with people whom I know will be nothing but trouble is that last thing I’m about to repeat. As unforgiving and shallow-minded as this may sound to those who cultivate a wider view of life’s oyster, I am steadfast in my opinion that there is far more to be garnered from active avoidance of controversy than the competing imperative for unrestrained inclusiveness. Granted this supreme satisfaction is not universally available, especially where one’s friction arises in the context of family. In such circumstances the best one can hope for is the foresight to rise above the perceived injury and maybe even politely excuse oneself from the arena before the fracas ensues.
I’ve heard it said that there are only four topics of conversation: sex, gossip, bodily functions and shopping. Based upon what has preceded, it appears that I have completely failed to target even one of the expressions of social exchange. I apologize for this conspicuous bankruptcy. Likewise I can see that my retraction from continued learning, alternative employment, social convention, the pleasures of the table and strict etiquette can easily be construed as little more than the slithering retirement of a curmudgeon. I prefer to speak of my withdrawal as one of rising tranquillity, not diminishing hibernation. The object is not to become either reclusive or surly, rather to afford myself the prescription for conduct that ultimately pleases. If the agenda induces me to side-step the venturesome patterns of my erstwhile youth, then so be it.