Three Score and Ten: A Meditation
Well, Old Man, 70 today. Who’d have thought? And still in pretty good condition, considering how little care I have taken of the old carcass. I understand now how the accumulation of minor miseries in aging is mercifully designed to let us down slow and easy till we are ready.
The children are OK. I still haven’t accepted that they are grown and responsible for themselves. However much I long to protect and help them, there is not much I can do now.
And that grandboy is something! Smart, fearless, and a winning personality. Lord, for this blessing I am truly grateful. But Lord, please don’t let that winning personality make him grow up to be a politician. Give him a useful, hands-on vocation. No need to worry. Son-in-law is a good man, another blessing, and will see the boy right.
And my other children OK, too. The young men who, to my surprise, came to study history with me—honest, courageous, Christian, and with a true vocation every one. A completely unexpected and undeserved blessing that has enriched and cheered me beyond measure. Now middle-aged, some of them, believe it or not. Not much more I can do for them either, but will do what I can. Ripples in the water.
The world seems an entirely different place now than when I was a child. Once ubiquitous, there is not a mule, a cotton field, a spittoon, or a lady's fan left in Carolina. But it is more than that—the slow Southern contentment shared by black and white is gone. The world now is always promiscuously fast and noisy and full of strangers.
I know I have spent too much of my life with words. Not much I can do about that at this point. I can still take in the words like air. Although I don't retain what I read like I used to. I read halfway through that Douglas Reeman sea story the other day before I realised I'd read it before. But that's OK. The pleasure is in the thing itself. And the words and ideas still flow out—though not quite as free and easy as they used to.
That's age and maybe a little bit of despair too. Writing is a mug's game and only a fool would do it for anything other than money. More fool me. In "America" "the revolt of the masses" has destroyed the English language. Has destroyed the tools of thought. I fear the written word is obsolete. In another generation there will be no more book readers—readers of real books, that is. The stores and "libraries" are stuffed with nonbooks, and for students, if it is not high up on Google, it does not exist.
I'm on record that a lesson of historical study is that nobody can predict the future, but it looks to me like German-Yankee "pragmatism," the PR name for materialism, has pretty well eliminated the spiritual, and it is the spiritual that is civilisation. American manic materialism is a form of atheism. Really, the only way to write about the U.S. now is parody, and they can't get the point of that.
Writing, when not done for money or duty, is all ego. And I have received some gratifying recognition along those lines. What else am I going to do with the time that's left? Faulkner said that we scribblers are all failed poets. I felt that impulse once. Could I have been, with just a little more sacrifice and effort? But the necessary fire and music departed long ago.
That reminds me: two papers due for Don Livingston. Better start getting something down. It will be good to get those "thoughts" down before I lose them. Who knows, somebody I'll never meet might even get something out of them some day. Or some "scholar" will steal them without acknowledgment.
Strange with my connection with words that these days I remember faces and personalities better than names. I recognise people but the name escapes me.
I'd like to see France one more time, the regions I haven't seen yet, especially the prehistoric sites in the Dordogne. But travel is getting to be more trouble than its worth.
More and more often now I think of Mother's sweet smile. That has to be the smile of angels. If it be Thy will, Lord, I'll be seeing you again one of these days, Darlin'.
I used to think that things would be clearer and simpler as one got older and "wiser." The opposite is true. I get more confounded every day by the puzzle of behaviour in the human animal.
Have learned a few things:
—Less is more, in writing and in life.
—If it ain't broke, don't fix it. You are just asking for trouble, (I never could convince Dad of that. He was still fixing things from his wheelchair.)
—I have finally come to have some understanding and empathy (I think) with those wondrous creatures of the opposite sex, but far too late to do anybody any good. I still can't believe that those lovely, soft beings actually seem to like us. Forgive me Lord for the unkindnesses I have done to women from ignorance and selfishness.
—Trust your instincts. If you think somebody may be a con artist or a Republican Party hack paid to disrupt and divert an organisation, but are not sure—they are.
—Most of the time nature trumps nurture. And spontaneous, unreflective human bahaviour follows the exact same pattern as the other "primates." I suppose that's why Socrates or somebody said that the unexamined life is not worth living.
—John Taylor and Calhoun were right. Government, though necessary, always preys upon the poor for the benefit of the rich. That is its ineluctable nature.
—There are no more Lions to defend the people. We are ruled by the Foxes who have sold us out for their own comfort. Or rather, not Foxes, but Jackals.
—Successful politicians of these days and serial killers have the same personality. Both are adept at creating false reality and both are incapable of empathy with other human beings. This profile also fits some clergymen I have met, whose motivation is clearly to manipulate other people.
—Far from being "the hobgoblin of little minds," consistency is a great virtue. Inconsistency is an evil and devious work of the devil and akin to unreliability. Together they wreak misery on human relations and havoc on human activities. Inconsistency is a primary trait of psychopaths. After all, one of his names is the Father of Lies.
—People are usually even more petty, self-centered, and short-sighted than you think. Most of my real setbacks in life, other than those caused by my own defects, have come from over-estimating people, assuming they had more virtue and intelligence than they had. Still, you encounter true and honourable people often enough.
—Money talks and talent walks. Always. Poe got ten dollars for "The Raven."
—Appearance usually trumps merit and conniving is more rewarded than achievement. There are the rare creators who bring something new into the world, and the more numerous operators who can create nothing but usually get the power and profit of creation.
—The happiest people, in a worldly sense, are those who start life with a good stock of capital. Their course never has to be blocked and diverted by economic necessity. They do not have to work at a job they don't want.
—There is a good deal of truth in the saying that "the good die young." Not always true, but true often enough. I remember today all the good men who never made it as far as I have—Mel Bradford, Sam Francis, Ted Smith, Chip Conyers, Mark Winchell . . . and the gracious Miss Betsey.
—Nobody can fully anticipate the future. There are too many variables. Otherwise we would all score big on the stock market. However, it seems nearly certain that the United State is sinking into another Brazil—except with a ruling class armed with nuclear weapons and arrogant adolescent delusions.
—Neither democratic self-government nor worthwhile culture are possible in a country with commercial television. Nor in a country like the United States in which vast wealth is concentrated in a few hands and where "respectability" outweighs independence of mind.
Lord, there is a lot that I don't understand about Creation and Creator. I know that this complex world and the human soul could not be mere accidents. Nothing can come from Nothing. Science only describes, it cannot explain. Evolution may be just their pretentious way of describing the Great Chain of Being. The soul is energy and energy does not disappear, it only changes form. "Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill?" Help my faith, Lord.
Will the South survive, as I once, somewhat pretentiously, claimed? I have spent my time, energy, talent, money, reputation, and hopes in that project for 40 years or more, ever since I concluded that only the South had a slim hope of escaping the civilisational debacle of sordid trivia that is "America." I don't know. Lord, I can't believe that you allowed Dixie to come into existence through history without a purpose. She has a noble soul. May she live on. America does not amount to much without her, but that is not the reason we love her. Dixie is the intangible spirit in a country that is radically materialistic. Every generation has to fight its own battles, and there are plenty of good young people ready for the battle, though their weapons are few. Good young men—in a country that specialises in turning out wimps, thugs, and petty politicians.
Seventy! I will have to see to that cataract surgery eventually and probably some of those disagreeable check-up procedures that sawbones enjoy. If the doctor tells me I have only a few months left, I will have a martini. It has been years now and I have never missed anything so greatly—every day—as that magical cold tang.
And thinking of things to do, it's time to clean and reload the guns. Best to be alert—since Jack Kemp ruined the neighbourhood (and the best public school district in the State). And I had better see to that cemetery plot before long, so the children won't have to worry with that. Maybe that shady place over in Lexington. They won't have any trouble settling my property if there is anything left. I have already left instructions that my beautiful Confederate third national flag be draped on my coffin. Don't know if they will be able to pull that off or not.
Right now, dinner finished, 1 P.M. I should have had a smaller bowl of ice cream. Time for a nap. And if I happen to dream about Greta Scacchi or Kate Beckinsale, forgive me Lord, although we both know I won't be sorry.
Thank you for these days, Lord, and may my soul hunger and thirst after righteousness and be purified.