Middle Age Travails

Middle Age Travails

WISH there could be words, well there are words, but often, more than less, they escape into the grey beyond of the thalamus where thoughts and confusion find their origin. Speculating, analysing, and presenting words; those basic units of communication that form phrases and sentences that end up corrigible or incorrigible to the audience in front of the speaker or the writer.
The thing that is most harmful to the author is the loss of the word or not finding the right word to use in a given speech episode or piece of writing. And this does come at certain points in life, forcing one to rethink their speech, to re-establish their pattern, and to look for new meanings to everyday words. It is a constant process of shifting from one style to the next; nomadic in pattern, meaning that one seasonally changes their method of writing.
There is just no fixed manner of writing, and as one ages and their writing wisdom progresses, they soon discover that oftentimes, writing is not just about writing: it is done for the benefit of the author and the audience in a symbiotic manner. One draws their story from the lives of the audience and projects it in the piece of writing they present back to the audience. In essence, the source gives to the receiver and the receiver sends it back processed to the source.

The temptation is to give in to the complacency found in sticking to one style of writing. I find it similar to leaving a piece of iron in stagnant water to rust to the point of uselessness. The writer is afforded the biggest field of options, for in the everyday occurrences that come with each passing minute are the stories that one can write about. A story can be written about a tree in bloom in spring, and another can be written about its leaves in the midst of summer. The feast of its fruits in late summer to autumn can be penned into the most romantic tale if the writer observes the occurrences of the season.
This does not mean that the bare tree in winter has no tale to tell either, it is just up to the author to observe the gnarled branches reaching out to the blue or grey sky in the winter’s barren landscape to coin a narrative or pen a poem to give life to the deadness of a season when the world and its creatures are in repose. There is always a story to tell, it is just up to the writer to go out and look for it, or they can observe from the verandah and the porch to find out what it is that they can write about the world fleeting by: for it carries within it meanings necessary to stimulate the compassion needed in the writing of any work.
The English romantic poet, John Keats, penned a letter to a friend with regard to the issue of compassion. It goes:

Men should bear with each other- there lives not the Man who may not be cut up, aye hashed to pieces on his weakest side. The best of men have but a potion of good in them- a kind of spiritual yeast in their frames which creates the ferment of existence-by which man is propell’d to act and strive and buffet with Circumstance.
It is the compassionate understanding of the foibles and maladaptive tendencies of fellow human beings that enables the author to draw a comedy out of tragic circumstances and in the process to enable the audience to deal with their own tragic circumstances.  There is an innate need to constantly change, but the change should not be attained at the expense of the sadness of others.
The author of a work should always never forget their own fallible nature; for it is only in confronting the man in the mirror (their frank opinion of themselves) that they can achieve a level of compassion suitable enough to enable them to write a good work. This compassionate nature should however not be used where it comes to chastising gallivants and pederasts who think not of the dangers of their deeds on society. A corrupt official should be frankly addressed as such to help avoid him reneging on his oath of office, for as the wizard Merlin said, “shame is the best teacher!” There is no wrong in shaming what is corrupt, there is shame in being unfeeling when it comes to dealing with certain matters and individuals whose status is vulnerable. The decision to write about something sort of returns to the ‘what would I do given the same type of situation?’ question.

With the passage of the years and maturity comes the need to grow personally. The fact of the matter is that we are constantly growing, even if it is not at the same pace. The difference comes with the decision to see one’s self and wisdom grow in a systematic manner. The decision to grow can be compared to a farmer that decides to grow their crop in a straight line instead of scattering them helter-skelter on a piece of land to increase their harvest. It is an ordered process that demands a certain degree of method, that one should keep the diary and the journal if they did not do so before. The main reason is that, as one grows the vigour with which they used to attend to issues may ebb, and the quickness of memory slows down. The cause of this is the usual human behaviour in human society that people get ‘settled’ at a certain point in their lives, giving in to complacency and killing the passion with which they used to deal with issues timeously. Ralph Waldo Emerson bears a contrary view to the idea of being settled at a certain point in life. His view on personal growth is found in the statement that:
People wish to be settled: only as far as they are unsettled is there any hope for them.

If you have read Meja Mwangi’s Walking Down River Road you will understand that the author was himself unsettled by the circumstances on the various construction sites he laboured on with different figures. Compassionate but unsettled, he (Ben) draws a beautiful portrait of Ochola, a naughty scallywag of a man who finds representation on almost any construction site one works on or visits. There is a naughty figure that keeps the chain-gang on the site entertained enough to see the working day through, diverting their attention from the tedious toil to something else: either a tale or a series of comic antics meant for the mirth of the workers on the gloomy construction site. Often unsettled himself, this type of entertainer infects the rest of the crowd with his own unsettledness and in the process becomes the oil that lubricates the working machine that promotes industry through effort. There is not much to his acts except the constant bantering that can be seen as fickle by less humourous characters, but of course, the truth of the matter is that one can add sugar only to tea and water: sour people often stay so for the rest of their lives and they can never be sweetened.

When Gabriel Garcia Marquez penned his works, the most prominent among them being A 100 Years of Solitude, the gist of the matter was not timelessness but rather, Marquez seems to have been exploring the issue of the wheel of life and fortune and how certain events recur in the lives of individuals or the groups within which they live. In our existence, there is a need to be aware of the fact that some things actually never change but come to us time and again in different forms and norms. It is therefore imperative that one should never be scared by the passage of time as is the norm in these present times where the insistence and the emphasis is on age. People are now being classed according to age, and their levels of performance are pigeonholed on the basis of the number of years they have lived on earth; as if age determines the strength and the intelligence of one.

Personal experience has taught me that age is in truth nothing but a number, for there are pliable septuagenarians and octogenarians making decisions for the entire global economy who could not be bothered about their age. We have come to live in a world where the standards are determined by obscure authorities and this results in us feeling the pressure of the natural processes of aging. It sometimes angers one when visibly strong figures are declared unfit to carry on with their duties on the basis of the number of years they have lived. The wise author understands that timelessness is achieved only through accepting one’s human condition, changing with the times resiliently, and always remembering that one cannot rest on their laurels but should constantly be in pursuit of betterness.
The manner with which issues have been dealt with in the current times is sowing a spirit of despair amongst the ranks of citizens in the world. It is as if the best pursuits are in politics and science, as if the other fields of study cannot give answers to previously unanswerable questions. It is a fact that the most lucrative careers are found in politics and science, professionals from other fields are merely called in as honorary members to the symposiums and conferences. This has bred a spirit of complacency in the two classes (science and politics) with one proclaiming that we have to focus on treating disease instead of finding its cures and vaccines, and the other’s talk is focused only around poverty and unemployment, as if these maladies of social economy cannot be done away with. It makes one wonder why the focus cannot be shifted onto methods that actually grant the world a moment of repose so that they can focus on other things meaningful to the process of progress.

AIDS has been here for 40 or more years with no cure in sight, no medical professional is willing to provide answers as to when the cure for the virus shall be found, and Africa buckles under the weight of despair as politicians make the disease a drawcard to gain donations. It is utter rubbish to accept that there is no cure for the disease with the advancements in medical technology. If Edward Jenner introduced vaccination in the late 1700’s with the limited technology he had: how does a medical scientist in the 21st century fail to find a vaccine for a single strain of virus with all the gadgets in the lab? It sounds like a Tuskegee Project (that evil project that went on for more than 40 years even though the cure for syphilis and gonorrhoea had been found with the discovery of penicillin by Alexander Fleming in 1928) in progress, a royal scam of gargantuan proportions where people are psychologised into accepting a zombie status on the basis of complacent scientific social theories that are debauched enough to render entire continents as experimental projects. It is a challenge we middle-aged ones have to deal with on a daily basis, the younger ones were born into it so they do not care. Those ones older than us gave in a long time ago; it is a question the writers of this era need to deal with before it engulfs humanity in liver damage caused by constant imbibing of poison in the name of treatment.

The basic reality we face is one of despair, where the rich gain all the glory and the poor have to deal with all that is gory, scrabbling for scraps that are growing more minute with each passing season. The individualistic tendencies of the present times foster a spirit of futile crab-in-a-bucket competition where the ultimate result shall be a sour one for everyone living in the world. It is a lie that prisons shall be built that are large enough to house all the inmates that end up as felons due to the increasing levels of hunger and poverty in the world. It is already a struggle to deal with patients in hospitals due to a lack in facilities and equipment, mollycoddling a disease means that soon enough, it will be back to the Stone Age clinic; unless the disease is a tool meant to cull certain sectors of the world’s population.
The challenge one meets in the middle age as an author is one where the needs outweigh the gains, meaning that for one to survive, they have to be constantly on their feet as a caveman used to do in a land full of beasts and predators in the Stone Age. It is a lie sold to the complacent that things will get better, they never will, unless human beings stop their hyper-capitalist projects that benefit a few whilst disenfranchising the larger majority of the world’s population. It is in the middle age that one begins to understand the truth in Karl Marx’s words: we need a Utopia if humanity is to survive the next century.

Tsépiso Mothibi

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