I am trying to see if this constant dissatisfaction that quickly finds every task unappealing to the point nothing at all gets done and finally, nothing even gets planned, is some how an artifact of my advancing age. I consider this possibility because I do recall that when younger, I could maintain intense focus on at least some projects, even if they were tiresome and not guaranteed of results. One of the clearest such memories is of an undirected, unpaid, months-long struggle to develop a novel alternative to correlation techniques for machine vision immune to lighting variations. In recalling, I see that the master of the effort was ego gratification. It was a long shot and still worth it because it got published and I, the dismissible farm boy who nearly didn't get his BS, got to present a paper. My basic nature, the ease of distraction, the way I fall from a task to turn left or right the minute the grade begins to steepen...I have always had this but now, even necessary chores are neglected unless others force and remind me.
My wife was at a conference for 3 days and for 3 days, I would not even write a to-do list, putting it off and putting it off.
But in this period of solitude I did flit between a couple of interests and blogged and read quite a bit. And watched my mind flail about. I think one can still practice a kind of meditation as one "does" some things though perhaps the best forms of meditation are willfully and, with practice, eventually effortlessly, "doing nothing". I will call it moving meditation, though I actually sat [in front of computer] most of the time.
Near the end of this little vacation of the will, I was driving back from a barely necessary trip to Home Depot. Unlike my usual trips there, no imagined task gripped me, no tool jumped into my shopping cart on the mere promise of its potential utility...I was nearly pure disinterest. Not like me. Am I depressed? Why should NOT buying things I never need to buy in the first place be alarming? By most standards, it was the impulse buying that betokened an unhappy mind.
Driving back from this odd shopping experience, the vague, nameless and faceless unease that haunts impulse and distraction rose up in my awareness, as if frustrated that no tasty pursuit had been provided to put it to sleep. And in that moment, these words: "the self is empty, the self is emptiness".
In younger days, before life has focused us or forced us to moments when all we know is the whirring of our own machinery, in youth, it is possible to ignore the self for we have not seen it. It is there of course and the more a foil for us because we do not detect its operation in our doings. But now, I can almost talk to it and it to the me that does not care. And self seems bereft at times and says "what is worth doing? What is there to look forward to? Do I know anybody well?".
On the radio, that crafty breathless Christopher Lyden was yammering away on Open Source as I drove home. He gives no impression of any nuance applied to the term "boomer". Is there some incompatibility between "hip" and "nuanced"? I never thought so. We of a certain age were, for the hour of his narration, all the same. The generational differences he paints on today's politics are a damn sloppy average. Whether or not you shared the idea, from the get-go, that Iraq was a "dumb war" is NOT a function of what year you born. Mightily to BarakObama's credit that he said it and voted it when others were afraid to lead and afraid to have a conscience. Very much to his credit but hardly a property of his cohort. I don't know which of the collaborative of writers provided the one sentence in Lyden's lead in for the show that had a clue: "Or do you think harping on generational divides is a way of over-simplifying politics and human behavior?" Most of the show avoided any such insight. But a few of the commenters were not buying it.
Amanda Marcotte once picked up my attempt to understand why some, maybe most, people grow more conservative as they age. That was the most traffic I ever got and with my flaws as a writer thus exposed, I can understand how things quickly went quiet. Or maybe those readers also resented a pigeonholing scheme where the little boxes have nothing more explanatory on them than a year. A row of categories in which to bury all human potentials, a morgue with the drawer fronts disguised as a calendar. I don't recant the observations I made. And the idea, that the advancing cowardice and conservatism that creep on with birthdays for some people is perhaps explainable by some theory of cognition, was only offered as a speculation. I remain vigilant and neither with nor with out hope that I shall not age to that pattern. Oh please may that never be me. And damn anybody who puts me in the wrong box.
Amanda's busy these days and not 30 yet. You old readers who aren't old, pass this one on to your friends. I have become curious what this particular station on our little journeys is like from the inside. What the hell difference does your age make? Since time and our place in it are so very subjective, how can it change us when we invent it? I beg and permit your thoughts! You too, Aunt Vicky. And any of you lurkers in Kelowna, or elsewhere in BC. Anyone in Reno? Wisconsin? North Carolina is rich in reflective souls. Oostrayans? I know yer out there, mates. Florida, Oregon, Washington? UK? Sudbury? [the Sudbury of your choice, Lincolns and Springfields are also fine, ambiguously located towns]
Just leave comments. I can wait.
Per request of Davo, a minimum of hyperlinks were exploited in the development of this post.
And if anyone from Memphis or greater metropolitan Williamstown, MA suggests that the first step down the slippery slope to drooling curmudgeonhood is getting snappy about being put in boxes, I shall unmask you, or at least tell you to get off my lawn.