Monday, April 16, 2012

The (how many?) ages of man /2

Once upon a time, there was an Italian named Titian who left behind a few paintings. You may have heard of him. One of his more famous works was entitled, "The Three Ages of Man," which was completed around 1512, a century and one-half before Valentin de Boulogne's four ages. It is special, but even more special, in my mind, is Titian's "The Allegory of Age Governed by Prudence," completed not many years before his death, possibly as late as 1570. That piece, shown here, portrays three faces looking in different directions above the heads of a wolf, a lion and a dog. The three human heads depict an allegory of Titian's "Three Ages of Man" -- namely youth (the wolf), maturity (the lion) and old age (the dog). In this instance, the faces are not of a single individual at various stages of life (as in de Boulogne's piece), but thought to be portraits of Titian (old age), his son Orazio (middle age) and a young cousin, Marco Vecellio (young age). It is the only painting by Titian to contain a motto: Ex Praeterito/Praesens Prudenter Agit/Ne Futura Actione Depurne .... ("From the experience of the past, the present acts prudently, lest it spoil future actions"). You see? Another who believes all knowledge is to be found through the study of history -- even if it is only the study of one's own history.

"The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven out of hell, or a hell out of heaven."

An excerpt from:
"Paradise Lost"
by John Milton
A return to the "ages of man"
(Part 2 of 2)

I am neither happy nor content with my life. I have been trying to change it for about five years now, obviously without success.

As I told my spiritual companion a few days ago: "It is strange. I wish to retreat from the world of my past into a new existence, a new world, and I feel the past overtaking me and, to a degree, smothering me" with every step I take. She had no answer.

The logical individual would tell me to make a plan and follow it. The emotional individual would tell me to close my eyes and jump.

Well, it is not that I have not tried to make a plan. I celebrated New Year's Eve 2009 in Warsaw, Poland. I did not expect to live in "Old Town" the rest of my life, but I thought it was the first step in a plan to leave behind my past -- including all my interests and all my failures and all my accomplishments. Absolutely everything. Obviously, since I am here, the plan did not work. It was mostly my fault that it did not.

Like many, if not most people, I seldom close my eyes and jump. I have at times, but I prefer not to leap into any unknown void.

To repeat one of my common mantras, by the time I had reached age twenty-five I essentially had experienced all there is to experience in life in one form or another. Since then, everything has been repetition and wandering, more-or-less aimlessly, down the same road. It occurs to me periodically that, maybe, there is nothing left to experience on this road other than death.

I have been within a breath of death four times, possibly five, or even more given the notion that some came and went unnoticed by poor, simpleton me. By within a breath, I mean something as ordinary as stepping left (unknowingly) resulted in life while stepping right (unknowingly) would have meant death. From my experiences, I actually believe that I can see death when he is near, not necessarily stalking me, but merely looking for someone -- anyone -- to catch unawares. I have not seen him for a few years. Which makes me wonder, at times and after a few brandies, if I might already be dead. When I was in high school, I wanted to write science fiction novels. Hmmmm.

All right. Enough aimless wandering in this post. Time to come back on topic: It could be I have nothing left to experience other than the same actions, feelings, thoughts I have known before, but in new places.

It seems to me the best way to make things new is to forget the past. Consequently, I wish to forget the Marine Corps. I wish to leave behind my bachelor's and master's degrees. I wish to look back and not see two wives and three children. No journalism career; no managing a prison; no scattering of other work.

Is this a sign of dissatisfaction with my past? I suppose, to a degree, but more so it is a desire to experience something new, if there is anything new left for me to experience, without the remembrance things, people or times past.

So, a regular reader might ask, "What does this have to do with the 'ages of man'?" I guess it is my way of saying that sure, these ages, these periods of time, exist in terms of a man's physical body -- and, for most men -- in terms of their viewpoints, attitudes and beliefs about life and living. After all, some young men never stop burning and looting and hating anything and anyone who is different than themselves no matter how many years they last, and most old men accept crawling around their yards on their knees picking dandelions as their ultimate fate in this world.

(If you are really clever, you will understand that life has been no fun for me for the past two years and, if life is no fun, what purpose does it serve? If the answer is no purpose, why waste one's time with it? You understand, this is a hypothetical question, a philosophical question. To live without purpose is a waste; to die without purpose is stupid and, in this sense, I have known a number of stupid people. I have no desire to join their ranks.)

My point is that some of us, and I do believe there are many more than a few of us, do not believe in the "ages of man" and could care less what societies or governments or companions or changing/aging bodies try to tell us. Life is a search for something not even here. Life is a joke, a tease, a taunt, a game in which there can never be a winner. Life is an allure, a fantasy, an illusion, a random event. Life, in the words of Milton, is a heaven for some, a hell for others.

A few years after Milton wrote "Paradise Lost," he turned around a bit and wrote "Paradise Regained." It includes these lines:

"The childhood shows the man, 
"As morning shows the day."

A child lives in ignorant bliss. Most among us, I believe, are still that way on the day we die no matter how many years we have lived. A few of us are not that way and are forever searching although we know the effort is futile, although we know life is but a joke. A few of us are forever Percival and Galahad.

What else can we do; who else can we be?

1 comment:

Fram Actual said...

Hmmmm .... not a single comment after more than five days.

I am disappointed. Even if the words are meaningless, the painting is wonderful and the song is a classic.

So, with a whimper and not with a bang the opportunity for comments on this blog ends.

Something special ....