Four score and seven years ago...well, obviously I wasn't around then. On the other hand, I'm more than halfway there now, so it doesn't seem quite so remote as it used to.

One of the distinguishing characteristics of our species, not to say one of the more annoying ones, is our awareness of our own mortality. That awareness occasionally drives us to do startling things, like climb mountains or make abrupt career changes or, least inspiring of the lot, assemble Web sites. The notion that it's all downhill from this point is seldom spoken, but it's never all that far from consciousness. And when, irritated by a peer, you yell "Drop dead!" and walk away, it occurs to you later that it really could have happened. Thoughts like this seldom cross the minds of twentysomethings, and I hope they enjoy not having them.

For the male of the species, the sense of being on the downhill slope often leads to something called the "mid-life crisis" — a decided misnomer, since life tends to involve one crisis after another, and the determination of the mid-point, at least during one's lifetime, is haphazard at best. Popular psychology insists that men of A Certain Age are driven to go forth and seek out, in Tom T. Hall's words, "faster horses, younger women, older whiskey, and more money." I can't see myself doing any of these things, but then I can't be sure if my life is half over, or two-thirds, or ninety-five percent. Somewhere out there is a bullet or a bacterium or a Buick with my name on it, and its scheduling is unclear, to say the least.

Then again, I have no real right to complain, at least about that. With a sister gone nearly twenty years, and a brother quite ill, and both younger than I, anything I say on the subject is comparatively meaningless. All the more reason, therefore, to put it on the Web.

The Vent

#78
23 November 1997

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 Copyright © 1997 by Charles G. Hill

Lyric from "Faster Horses (The Cowboy and the Poet)" by Tom T. Hall, copyright © 1975 by Hallnote Music.