There are things that go right for me, things that could have gone right for me. There were things that were somehow meant to be. But I have almost never stopped for them. And if it does happen that I do stop I leave behind almost no record of them, of my experience with them. These things were for the most part beginnings, things I did start but never finished. And in fact my life is made up much more of beginnings than of ends
We begin things in life, oh don’t we, oh how much the things we begin do we ever bring to a satisfactory end? At the moment I can’t think of even one, not a great time for me is it, for where I am today is old age.
In far too many cases too many things pass me by, I don’t stop for them, but mostly they don’t stop for me. These things, as I now realize represent, all the things I might have been. For we are not, most of us at all what we could of been, are we?
What then does that make us? Frustrated, dissatisfied not to have gone down our bucket list and finished. This frustration and dissatisfaction, especially in times of state and national elections, leads us on looking for someone who will promise us a greatness we have never known for ourselves. We haven’t lost that dream, to make something of ourselves, and alone that is why we admire so much those who unlike us do start and finish things. I think of all those mathematicians, musicians, athletes, artists, scientists… and the few of them I have known. And by the nature of things there can never be more than a few of them at the top .
Now this fact alone, that there are only a few at the top, lays bare the underlying inequalities among us and is probably more to be blamed that racism, bigotry, authoritarianism, etc. for the inequalities that we observe among us. Whereas we are learning painfully what to do about racism and authoritarianism we really have no idea what to do about the gifts and talents that are so poorly distributed among us, separating the few inexorably from the many.
But reading over what I’ve just written, while correcting the typos, or better in my case, les fautes de frappe because of my age, I think about what I wanted to write about in my 88th year. For that’s more or less the real subject of my blog. I do have a blog which I call My Journal, but as things go, as you start things, much as I started My Journal, you very quickly find yourself paying little or no attention to your first idea for writing and you end up writing another blog much the same as my earlier Quatrevingtans.
So back to where I was going with this blog before I started writing. What I find hardest to live with at my age of 88 are not my considerably diminished powers of seeing, hearing, and tasting, perhaps less, feeling and touching (what have I left out? well smelling, which was never a big part of my life anyway). I find hardest to live with the fact that when my life is over (it’s over already in respect to the people who measure this kind of thing) and I don’t remember the name of these people, as I don’t remember the names of the flowering plants in our front yard here in Tampa, Florida. So another power I’m losing, the memory of proper names. If you don’t think this is a serious handicap try living without being able while speaking to recall this or that proper name on which your entire story or argument is probably based.
Also, there is (and this is what I really wanted to write about, but now I ‘ll have to put it off to the next time) the fact that when my life has ended there will be almost nothing that remains of me. Certainly no more beginnings, although I am still learning a few words of Arabic from my wife, as well as learning by heart the “Bénissez nous seigneur, bénissez ce repas,,” that we say at table in admiration of the Catholic family members giving thanks at the table in Blue Bloods.
I’m not just talking about the thousands of books, papers, those things all of which made up during my now long life a good part of me, perhaps the best part.
From where I’m sitting at my desk in front of my recently purchased Apple 27 inch display I look across at some of my book shelves (there are shelves of books, and there always have been in all of our rooms and all of our houses and apartments over the years, and from here I see my math library, from here most of what I see are my many versions of the calculus because there really was a time when I really wanted to learn the calculus and didn’t hesitate to buy one edition after the other, beginning of course with For Dummies.
Now my blog is not at all commercial. On the contrary it has no purpose beyond my own personal wishes and dreams. But there may be a reader out there who might want to purchase my math library, or my Russian library, or my biological sciences, in particular evolution library? Many excellent books in all three collections. And there are other collections too, corresponding to moments, to years in my life, The Greek years, the Great Books years, the Italian and Spanish, and German years…
But there were three very special moments in my learning years, not moments in school but personal times when I sensed almost from first encountering them their special importance, and not just to me. These encounters, with the calculus, the Russian language, and evolution, were made probably too late for me to obtain a kind of fluency in any one of the three, without which they will or have already died.
And now in my life the three of them are hanging by threads close to disappearing even before I do myself. You might be saying, why just these three? No good answer to your question. Calculus is important, as is evolution, as are foreign languages, but so are any number of other subject matters. But a good part of my own life has been taken up by these three, at least in respect to time spent and purchases made…