There is an interesting article on the website of The Guardian newspaper this morning, about research being done by Australian and US researchers into how effects of ageing might be held back or reversed – see here – THE GUARDIAN
It brought to mind a conversation I had some years ago now at the eightieth birthday party of my former father-in-law.
Amidst the hubbub of the proceedings, we suddenly found ourselves standing together, enjoying a fun conversation. My father-in-law had much about him, not least his extreme right-wing views, upon which to be teased and – in a masochistic way – he quite enjoyed having his leg pulled, which is perhaps just as well as I did it often.
Suddenly he commented, wistfully: “Ah, Oliver – if only I had known at the age of twenty what I know now …”
Now I’m not normally famous for my brain power or wit, but on this occasion (with the benefit of hindsight) I felt I was equal to the task.
As I recall it, I replied rather in this fashion:
“No, Frank – you’ve got that completely wrong. If you’d been in that position – i.e. known what you know now when you were twenty years of age – you’d have probably been both a crashing bore and deeply unhappy. The whole point of being twenty is that you know nothing … and yet think you know everything. You’re up to the gills in youthful vigour and quietly confident that you are on the verge of launching into the outside world and achieving anything and everything you might choose to turn your hand to.”
The gist of my follow up line was, of course, that life from the age of twenty is essentially on a downward curve as the realities of life, fate and other people gradually grind you down – so that, by the time you’ve worked it all out, you’re too old and weary to put it into action!
However, I do believe there’s an essential truth in the fact that, looking back and/or wishing that you could press some ‘reboot’ button and start your life afresh is totally pointless. At any given moment, we are what we are – we should get over it, and get on with it.
Aeons ago, when I was a teenager at school, I read a paperback book called Nightmares and Geesenstacks by Fredric Brown. It consisted of a large number of bizarre short stories and one in particular remains with me. I cannot promise that – as I remember it now – I will have its details correct in every respect, but it was the tale of a senior citizen who one day invented the secret of eternal youth, which somehow became embodied in a pair of undershorts.
When he put them on, he was miraculously returned to his twenties. Once again, he had a full head of hair, a washboard stomach, good looks. He was able to go out and about – impress all he met, gain advantages and make a mark for himself in the world. He had restored his youth. The icing on the cake came when he met and befriended an attractive young lady. He was able to chat her up, take her on a date – they were getting on so well that it seemed inevitable that this delightful encounter would end with a sexual relationship …
There was a pause in the narrative, and when it began again Brown was describing a desolate scene. In a hotel bedroom, the young lady was waiting, expectantly, naked under the sheets, for her beautiful bronzed squire to emerge from the bathroom and commence their love-making.
Cut to the bathroom, where said stud was kneeling, crouched upon the floor in barely-suppressed anguish, tears streaming from his eyes.
He’d discovered the secret of eternal youth of course, signified by his magical undershorts. But his understandable tears of frustration were caused by the fact that, if he ever took them off …