I caught myself looking at my reflection the first thing this morning while I relieved myself. (That's kind of sad in itself, the Lord graced me with a brand new day, and the first thing I can think of doing is pee.)
I was drawn toward the eyes. I saw there for a moment the eyes of my father, not the laughing eyes of Grandpa Bill, but that other guy, the old one who went to the grave carrying all of the anxiety of a maze stuck mouse with eyes that will haunt me as long as I live and hopefully no further.
I know that I'm still grounded with both my feet firmly rooted in what now passes for reality. I still have enough of the required respect for angles, lines, and borders for me to think I'm going crazy. Still, I'd be lying if I denied that there is more than just a little hint of fear and anxiety hidden behind the eyes in my reflection.
Hell, I'm too old for it to be otherwise. I've written down too many names into my own tattered copy of the Book of the Dead, not just the old faded names of the skeleton reminders of my youth, not just the friends and fellow actors that help me perform my own story, but also the names of infants who died before they had a chance, and the names of those characters who died in the beginning of the first and second acts. There are not all that many pages left for me to fill in. Soon, I guess I'll have to write on the inside covers.
The awareness of death should be unavoidable, but sadly many people do manage to avoid it right up till the very end when it jumps out from behind the curtains. This is knowledge , horrible as it is, that should be dealt with when we are much younger. I recently have started thinking that maybe it should be taught in our schools, and I'm not just talking about that fluffy bullshit about the cycles of life.
Death is not fluffy, and it never has been fluffy. It has sharp edges with jagged burrs that catch and embed themselves beneath the tough skin of our fingers when we touch it. And it's a real sumbitch to have to use a needle to extract them. And no matter how quickly we remove one, they multiply daily.
It takes gallons of vodka, bottles and bottles of opioids-prescribed or otherwise- to dull our senses long enough so that they can be removed. It takes a multi-billion dollar sports and entertainment system supported by thousands of circus clowns to make us forget their annoying presence. It's not the whole burr either, just that tiny bit that sticks above the surface.
And it's not just death that seems to preoccupy my thoughts lately; it's fear of the unknown. I don't recognize this world, and if it means I have to acknowledge that boys are supposed to wear man-buns and skinny jeans to hide the fact they have a penis and a pair of testicles, or that I have to express contrition for the sin of being a father, then I don't think I really want too.
I feel that I at least should not have to believe that what I see all around me defines the setting of my own play. It is my setting and my play and not Nancy Pelosi's, Donald Trump's, Oprah Winfrey's, Madison Avenue's, or Hollywood's to define.
And that seems to be what is missing from this world. The ability to exist outside of the confines of the perceptions of others. When life starts to have it's value determined by the makers of video games and Facebook algorithms, it is probably a good time to exhibit a little craziness in our eyes. Either that or its too late, and you have already been devoured by your avatar. I don't need Rowdy Roddy's special sunglasses to spot a soul sucking zombie, I'll just look for the lack of crazy in the eyes.
It makes me more than a little sad to know that the original seed of mankind swam across the roiled waters and outdistanced the millions, that our caveman forbearers stood courageously together to fight off snarling savage beasts with sharpened sticks, that we picked ourself up out of the carnage and ruins of two world wars and rebuilt the entire world, only to sacrifice our sense of well-being and purpose to the makers of the Internet.
Yet despite it all, I am not all that unhappy. I am learning new things that I should have learned a long time before. I challenged myself to read Dostoevsky, and it was good. I found a book on Descartes and discovered that he wasn't some religion hating dick as our textbooks suggest but rather a scientist, the one who set the original parameters of what science should be, who also reasoned out why the human race should believe in a creator. I actually smiled when I read one of his meditations on the existence of God. Who gave the blathering idiots of modern culture the right to decide I didn't need to know that part of the story?
And then yesterday, I read a line in The Force of Character, James Hillman's book about aging, that states that old age should not be yoked to declining physiology, it should be linked instead to, "not loss of capacity, but loss of illusion." This explains why humans need to live past their primes. We might not be vomiting on the sandy beaches of the Yucatan, but we are finally freed from the desires to do such things. We finally get some time to square up, to clean things up a bit without our loins, our greed, or our illusions distracting us from the much needed task.
That thought somehow made me think of the how the ancient Pharaohs buried their fortunes, their servants, and their concubines in the sands of Egypt to use in the afterlife. Makes me wish I could travel back in time so that I could rush up to the throne of Ramses II, fall face down before him and then say, " Hey that shit's still there. Its been moved to the Cairo Museum and your people are gawking at your bones on an almost daily basis!"
Sometimes it do get scary, but I suppose that this fear serves a purpose of sorts. It reminds us that life is far too short to derive meaning from our own reflections. If we were wiser, we would figure out a way to make those eyes look inward and not in the way that Oedipus did.
My only wish is that my dad's eyes weren't so haunted at the end. That, and that the persons who invented skinny jeans and man-buns live long enough to lose their own illusions.