Tuesday, January 19, 2010

One Year Shy of the Meaning of Life

Forty One, eh?

I am not, even by Presbyterian standards, a youngling any more. This strikes me as peculiar. Now and again, I'll be sitting around with a group of adults, and will suddenly realize that people who seem very much grown up and responsible are actually considerably younger than I am. Or I'll be talking with a grownup about a subject on which I'm apparently expected to know something. I'll listen to myself speak, and think, "Wow! I really do seem to know what I'm talking about. How did that happen?" I'm not sure if this happens to other people.

Shouldn't I feel different? I realize, when I think about it, that the array of data that underlies my awareness of the world around me is rather more deeply layered than it was when I was seven.

I know how to do a whole variety of things that would have baffled myself thirty-four years ago. I now know how to type, for example, which is making posting this a whole bunch easier. I'm married, which has contributed a whole bunch of of highly entertaining memories that my seven-year old self probably shouldn't be exposed to. I've got the boys, and a modest house in the burbs, which I apparently own. My body is larger, and increasingly creakier. I've been through all manner of joys and experienced some pretty impressive pain. Yet though those experiences add some...complexity of flavor...to my self, the awareness that I'd describe as "me" really is the same "me" that it has always been.

I'm always a bit confused when I encounter people I used to know who have been radically changed by the process of life. I find myself wondering, who are you? What happened to that person I knew? Sometimes that new person is actually rather nicer than the old one, which is a good thing. Sometimes, that new person is closed and embittered and more selfish, which usually makes me really miss the person I knew before.

But I remain, at least to my own discernment, basically me. Which is what I plan to be for as long as I am.

It makes aging seem sort of irrelevant, or at a bare minimum, not something worth worrying about. Then again, it's nice to have the birthday wishes and the cake and the presents.


  1. I can certainly relate, since I hit 41 this past July. I am always asking myself, "When am I going to feel like a grown up?"

  2. My son is 39 today. This is somehow more disconcerting to me than the fact that, a couple months from now, I’ll be pushing into my 7th decade on this planet. So, I’ve been thinking some about youngsters your age. I remember (or at least I think I remember) being that age and suddenly discovering that, as you’ve said, “the array of data that underlies my awareness…”, etc had increased. I felt more competent, more confident, more… adult. This, too, is a phase you’ll grow through. Don’t get me wrong. The array of underlying data and my competence have joyfully increased in the intervening years. But that whole climb to adulthood is really a bell curve. As I slide toward mandatory AARP membership, I’m rediscovering a more childlike (not childish!) outlook. The world is increasingly amusing to me and I’m seeing it with more of the wonder I did when I was seven.

  3. It's always interesting how it's easier to notice other people's changes from a distance or staggered over time than it is to notice our own changes constantly from the epicenter. Happy birthday and many more!

  4. Dear Frater Dave,

    Happy Birthday and Many Happy Returns!

    My great aunt Betty once told my mother that she was always slightly taken aback when seeing her reflection in the mirror first thing each morning, saying to herself "Who is that stranger?" She said that since she was in her early teens she had pretty much always been herself on the inside and was both mystified, amused and a bit frightened by the changes on the outside that the unchanging inside observed over the years.

    Having said that my mother says about me that I have changed a lot over the past year and am a different man. Hopefully she sees the life of Christ growing in me because that is what I hope for myself.

    I wonder, is just you who thinks you are still pretty much the same with a bit more complex flavor? Have you asked your long time family and friends if they think you are the same man? Don't think I knew you well enough at TEKE to answer the question but you might ask around. Never know what you might hear.


    -Frater Dawg

  5. At 47, what I notice (along with some of the things you posted) is that often I'd rather hang with folks who are ten years younger - too many closer my age seem to have no ambition or drive left, and are content to be couch potatoes.