The entryway to middle age is an unpleasant threshold, that much is certain. I’ll allow that it has something to do with the receding halcyon lights of youth, narrowing to a pinprick in the mind’s eye. It’s rather like hurtling down a well, your upturned face uselessly swallowing up the last twinkle of the surface above; it’s a sudden addrenalizing realization of horror foreshadowing the impact below. So imagine my concern when I realized that total darkness sets in long before the bones implode on the rocks at the bottom. I can hardly be blamed for thinking otherwise: when your guts are churning their way through the hormonal inferno of adolescence, or when they’re flustering vainly for recognition as an aspiring adult, you certainly can’t help but buy into the thought of life as a spark, desperate to catch fire before ultimately snuffing out. But as my own life enters the so-called mid-point (hardly predictive since I could easily choke on kung pao chicken tomorrow) I’ve found that everything I know is already winking out, cast one day in the sharp contrast of deep shadow, the next impenetrably dark at a glance.
It seems that the more you understand of the world, the less it avails itself to be known at all. I can see how this should be disheartening, terrifying, certainly of little comfort as I plummet to my inevitable death down what is turning out to be an even deeper hole than I first thought. And yet, without that speck of bright youth illuminating the smooth outer shell around me, the act of tumbling and falling itself scrabbles for meaning, the strength of its clawing dwindling in the stranglehold of a complete lack of context. Ultimately it’s fevered scratching is reduced to a niggling itch, a distant reminder that this weightless free-fall in darkness means something other than the timeless, suspension of flesh and fear that it ultimately becomes. Mortality, still there even as the wind whistles upwards, is a vain inconsequence to the fall despite it being its inevitable conclusion.
Although uncomfortable, the great gift of growing older is finding that your eyes adjust to this new lack of light. What was once a narrow, dimly illuminated shaft, is proving to be a touchless, pulsating abyss, peppered by primal, cellular knobs of flesh. What were once simple shapes are proving themselves to be massive creatures of the deep, intensely alien, translucent and undulating. I occasionally find myself averting my eyes as some lumbering giant proffers a dancing light before me like an angler’s lure. Although my new world view is dehumanizing and in many ways infinitely lonely, looking into a bit of simple light now would only leave me totally blinded, still blinking away spots when the end finally comes.
Like it or not I’m redefining the way I see things, the way I want things, and the way I fear things. Having spent so much time attaining adulthood, I didn’t foresee the liberating and alienating realization that everything it represents is inconsequential. And yet, I’m genuinely happy that the world gets weirder and weirder the farther I fall. Time grinds to a halt in this empty state, my aging body approaching the speed of light as it streaks ever faster toward it’s preordained annihilation.
It’s sort of marvelous.