eric_artem (eric_artem) wrote,
eric_artem
eric_artem

Turnstiles of Life

Контент 16+ In my English class last night way up high in the Imperia Tower of Moscow City, we discussed the subject of “Change.” This particular group of three students (one of whom will be studying at Columbia University in New York next year) offered many sharp and vivid insights — as is their custom — but they are in one way lucky to remain ignorant, and that has to do with the changes brought about by the aging process. They haven’t experienced that one yet. I have; I am in the middle of it.



This time next week I will be at the Domodedovo airport getting ready to board my last flight from Moscow to Varna. I say last flight, not because I especially expect the plane to crash (I hope it doesn’t), but rather because I am leaving this city and country that I love so much to go and live with my wife and dogs in the Bulgarian village where we own a house. I have written about this idyllic place in previous blogs. But I like to think that I am not really leaving Moscow — I am simply taking it with me. Many of my present students will stay with me on Skype, it seems, and so I will stay connected. I will continue to write my blogs.


 So change is, now and always, literally vibrating in the air, and the fact that my father died a couple of weeks ago merely puts the frosting on the cake. Nothing ever stays the same for long, and I remembered those phone conversations with Dad (which really formed the basis of our relationship, since I hadn’t seen him for 15 years), and obviously, he was doing a lot of thinking — calm, philosophical thoughts tainted slightly by the melancholy of impending closure. Yet I could not avoid guessing that even then he didn’t expect that he would die. Maybe he imagined that somehow, some way, he would escape. But he didn’t. and now he is wherever he was destined to go: probably into the ether of nothingness.


 So as my students discussed the positive aspects of change that express themselves in “becoming” and building roads to the future, I found myself thinking of the bridge between life and death. You know, you can sit in your little cell there on Death Row for months, even years, and maybe the Time seems to go so very slowly, but eventually, the guards always come and get you. You will hear their footsteps and know the Time is at hand. This knowledge, this terrible understanding is something, as I tried to tell my students, that comes from the bones — from within one own bones — and not from books.


I reflected — and did we together — my students and me — on the cycle of change that occurs in life. I think there are several many turning points. The first is when the baby begins to realize that he/she has a separate identity from that of the mother, that is, the sense of uniqueness and self-recognition. The second is when language begins to develop in the person, thus allowing for structured memory. These changes come about naturally, and I think that every new person experiences them in roughly the same way — barring extreme events of course. The next big change I would suggest is when young people start becoming aware of their emerging sexuality. For many people, this transition is exciting and pleasurable, but for a great many more it is traumatic.It doesn’t help when stupid parents and over-zealous religious nuts try to turn it into something ugly and profane. Multitudes of lives are ruined because of this.


Maybe the next change of note is when a young person leaves the home and goes out into the world. This means that the practice period is over and the game is on for real. Graduation from university (for those who go that route) leads to the doors, some open, some closed, of an unreliable job market. Well, there is always the military. Changing from a civilian to a soldier is an excellent way of setting up the possibility that the only future change will be, indeed, from life into death — and not at the August and fond age of 68 (where I am). I have been a lot of things in life — some good, some bad — but I thank my lucky stars I was never a soldier.


Marriage seems to have lost its kick, but at least people still do have children. I have two daughters and never was around to see either of them grow up, so I can’t comment here. I was never a family man. At least not until I started thinking of my dogs as my children, which I do. But I assume that for many people having children of their own is a huge milestone. In essence, they become their parents. I mean, they switch roles.


But the biggy is when death stops being a schoolboy fantasy or university student discussion over many beers and leading into a night from which morning always comes. The biggest change of all occurs when you finally understand and accept that no matter how many battles you win, you are always going to lose the war. When you forfeit your sense of immortality. I would suggest Tolstoy’s “The Death of Ivan Ilyich” as an especially marvelous study of this horrifying process.


Yet, it is not horrifying is you believe in God, I guess. The problem is that I don’t. I do take comfort, however, when, particularly in the village, I observe the cycles of nature as they revolve again and again. That’s what I trust: Nature. Somehow it tells me that there is nothing to be afraid of, and all will be well, as my wife likes to say… Furthermore, it reminds me that death is something everyone succeeds at. Even the worst fuck-up in the world will manage to die OK… Happens every time.


It reminds me of the guy who spent his life feeling guilty because all he did was drink and chase women, etc. He never got around to finding a career, building a solid foundation, family, etc. He chastised himself constantly for being a “failure.”  But one day he had a most splendid insight. He realized that he had never really WANTED to be an architect, doctor, lawyer, or good husband and father. He understood that, in being a drunken womanizer he had in fact been doing the thing he had really desired to do all along. This epiphany allowed him to redefine himself and understand that his life had been a Great Success after all.


So sometimes the biggest change occurs when you simply flip the script in your mind from one thing to another. As the poet William Blake wrote, “The eye, altering, alters all.”  Therefore, a mere change in perception can gain you entrance into a bold new world, be it one of reality or make believe, like the escape room in a game of Quest.

===Eric Richard Leroy===

https://eric-artem.com/turnstiles-of-life
Tags: death, eric, graduation, life, marriage, philosophy
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