Another year is drawing to a close and there is no denying that I am growing older. It is 40 years since I graduated and 25 years since I became a professor; however, counting the years does not give you a sense of age in the same way as the aches and pains that follow any serious exercise or the length of time that minor injuries take to repair [see ‘Moving parts can no longer be taken for granted‘ on July 28th, 2021]. These signs make it abundantly apparent that my body is ageing, albeit slowly, and providing incentives to take care of it through regular exercise – sitting writing blog posts is not sufficient! But, what about my brain? Apart from a tendency to forget people’s names, I am unaware of any signs of ageing. In fact, in many ways my neural networks feel more vibrant and capable of assembling in new complex patterns than ever before [see ‘Thinking in straight lines is unproductive‘ on July 29th, 2020]. Of course, that might be my mind fooling me in which case I will rely on others around me to let me know that it is time to retire. Gabriel García Márquez wrote in his novella Memories of My Melancholy Whores that “It’s not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old. They grow old because they stop pursuing dreams.” I am stilling pursuing ideas and aspirations, some of which I report in this blog, so perhaps it is reasonable to assume that they are keeping old age away.
I had been queueing slowly up the steps to board a plane thinking about nothing in particular when, as I stepped into the plane, one of cabin staff said to me ‘Are you getting ready for winter?’ I looked at her somewhat perplexed because it was only September, and she pointed to the book that I was holding ready to read on the flight home. It was ‘Winter’ by Ali Smith. It is a novel with much to say on many issues.
One of the central characters in the novel, Art writes a blog and someone challenges him to write about a real thing, something that he remembers happening and not a blog thing. He describes a real childhood memory and when it is suggested that he should write about it, his response is he could never put something like that on-line because ‘it’s way to real’. I have some empathy with Art, because it can be difficult writing about your thoughts and memories for anyone to read. However, I have noticed that the readership of the blog goes up when I do write about such things [see for example ‘Thinking more clearly by writing weekly‘ on May 2nd, 2018 or ‘Depressed by exams‘ on January 31st, 2018]. So, if people are interested perhaps I should do it more often.
Another passage that resonated with me was about age. The narrator is her sixties, which I will be soon, and comments that ‘You never stop being yourself on the inside whatever age people think you are by looking at you from the outside.’ I think that this is true but perhaps difficult to reconcile with consciousness being an accumulation of sensory experiences [see ‘Is there a real ‘you’ or ‘I’‘ on March 6th, 2019]