“I govern my passion with absolute sway,
And grow wiser and better as my strength wears away.”
Walter Pope (1630–1714)
I know an old man who is making his way out of a long and happy life. The end won’t be dignified or even terribly coherent: the later being the saving grace offsetting the former. The cobwebs of confusion are replacing the wisdom of age, just as the wisdom once replaced the grace of his youth. Sooner or later, whether our lives are long or short, they end in darkness. There’s no way out of here alive.
In response to a question about what he feared most, another wise old man once replied – dogs, Dutchmen, and the gathering darkness. That man was Abe Simpson, shuffling slippers, enigmatic response, and mumbled phobias about Dutch people. Abe teaches me that life is too short to take the gathering darkness too seriously.
Meanwhile, I struggle to govern my passions, if not with absolute sway, then at least with a nudge or two of reason. For now, I have the time and presence to pay attention. I have the wit to see things clearly rather than seriously. But as I age, I realize I’m growing too damn slowly into the wisdom my creaky diminishing strength entitles me to. At this rate, I’ll be wise about an hour and forty-five minutes after I’m dead.