As I grow older

One way I know that I’m not young anymore is that it’s easier to hold my attention by talking about religion than by talking about sex.  In fact, the only sex discussions that interest me are the ones that are really about morality and religion.

As I get older, I appreciate more and more the value of blind loyalty to the team, but I am less able to feel it.

I am becoming more viscerally aware of the finitude of my life.  When I was ten years old, another seventy years seemed like forever.  Now I am 35, and my life is half over.  I’ve got maybe as much ahead as I’ve already experienced.

Death is only one aspect of my finiteness.  My life is no longer an empty canvas.  The basic outlines are coming into place–my wife, family, and expertise.  When a movie starts, the story might be anything.  Half way through, the main story arc is visible.  You just don’t know how it ends.

Sometimes I think to myself:  perhaps someday I will be looking back on this time thinking “This was the time that I was truly happy.  Living with my wife and my baby, I was surrounded by love.  I had a good job, with respect, good pay, and an outlet for my creativity and ambition.  That was the summer of my life.  Now it’s gone and I’m in the winter of life, separated from my happy past by an impassible gulf.”  It adds a touch of melancholy to everything.

Not only I will die, but my culture, my civilization, and my religion.  The older I get, the stronger my sense of being on a sinking ship.  It makes me sympathize more with the other losers of history.  The liberals, with their insufferable invincibility, will never know what it’s like to endure the long defeat.  I’m quite sure that it’s not fair for me to hold this against them.  Finding oneself on the wrong side of history does broaden one’s sympathies, though.

The older I get, the more pacifist I become.  Perhaps it’s because of this general shift from optimism to pessimism with age.  In youth, I identified with the victors in wars.  Now I identify with the losers.

As I grow older, my affection for paganism continues to grow.  I think we are often far too harsh on what we see as idolatry.  It seems to me that God is the only thing that ultimately inspires reverence, and the only reason anyone would have ever thought to worship a tree or a mountain or whatever is because they caught a real glimpse of Him in and through it.  We sometimes say that the idolaters of today worship money or power or political ideology in place of God, and no doubt God has lost His place in the hearts of these unfortunate souls.  But a man’s “worship” of money is not the same thing as the pious man’s worship of God but with a different object, just as his “love” of money doesn’t mean he feels about it the way a man would feel about his child.  Money and power and the rest just don’t have the kind of awesomeness that inspires worship.

I find myself growing less interested in the polemical use of history.  Not that I doubt that the Christian record could be compared favorably to others’, or that the media’s favored minorities are not as saintly as we are led to believe, but I wonder what the ultimate point is.  Nobody is going to change their belief system over a body count.

I often hear that the answer to death is to chase after transient happiness now, usually at the expense of duty or principle.  “Life is short” is usually the start of an argument for gluttony or adultery, when it should be the start of an argument for repentance and prayer.  For me, it’s working the opposite way.  If we lived forever, it would be much harder to understand why one shouldn’t ditch an unhappy marriage or stop worrying and just party.  As it is, all our pleasures are bound to be fleeting anyway, even for the most unscrupulous of us, and we will all be dead in a cosmic blink of an eye.  Life is so short, we might as well stand on principle.

I am becoming more and more alienated from the American–and even the English–intellectual tradition.  A man should only subject himself to so much Whig banality in one lifetime.

3 Responses

  1. This is a melancholy post, friend. I do believe the good fight is worth fighting, indeed, I believe we are called to fight it. Sometimes the finale of the war is not ours to achieve, but perhaps we are called to play a key role in an early engagement, which may even appear to be a rout.

    I hardly think now is the time to feel defeat. If our cause could find its birth in a young man nailed to a cross, his followers broken and terrified, denying they even knew him…. How great a miracle is it that anything grew from that?

    Christ died not to establish an ideology or a culture, but to save souls. Can you not look out and see?: the harvest is ready, but few are the workers.

  2. “For me, it’s working the opposite way. If we lived forever, it would be much harder to understand why one shouldn’t ditch an unhappy marriage or stop worrying and just party.”

    I thought I was the only one who felt this way. The only reason I continue to push forward is because “life is so short, we might as well stand on principle.”

  3. Hi Justin,

    Maybe you’ve got a better attitude. I didn’t mean to say that anyone should cultivate the sense of “being on a sinking ship” or that it’s necessarily an accurate metaphor of our condition, only that it’s the one that captures my imagination. It’s what feels real to me. It is true that if Christ has saved even a single soul, that’s a victory that can never be lost.

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