Monday, October 06, 2008

Dealing With Impermanence

There have been signs, clues and hints, which I pretend to not see or understand. I keep buying books, which pile up unread next to my bed. I keep enrolling in language courses: Spanish, Tibetan, Mandarin, Japanese, which I abandonned after a week or two. I keep starting new exercise regimens: yoga, DDR, taichi, breakdancing, none of which lasted long enough to have any visible effects. What the f*ck happened to me? When did I become stupider and slower and more tired all the time?

Asparagus, as usual, is my teacher in dealing with unpleasant truths. Together, we enrolled in a weekly 3-hour Japanese class, which I found out was too hard for me (even though it's only a beginner class). In spite of his support and encouragement, I decided to drop out. It was by discussing my decision with him that I was forced to confront my limitations and to open my eyes to what has been hanging in front of my nose for a while, but which I refused to admit until now.

I explained to him: I used to be able to devour a book a day easily - and now I cannot read more than two pages without falling asleep. I used to be able to learn a foreign language easily, almost by osmosis, grasping the meaning instantaneously by the context and the intonation of the speaker, and now I listen to a Japanese sentence which has been repeatedly explained to me and it still sounds like gibberish, never acquiring any meaning.

Asparagus kindly reassured me that he has the same problem: a few years ago, he was among the top DDR players in Montreal. Two years ago, the Just for Laughs Festival invited him on stage for a demonstration, for crissake. He used to be able to look at the arrows scrolling down the monitor and translate them into intricate steps with lightning speed, like a professional musician would be able to look at a music sheet and hear the melody in his head. And now, at only 26 years old, he looks at the DDR arrows scrolling down at top speed and all he sees are some frigging arrows scrolling down at top speed, just like I would look at a sentence written in hiragana and only see strings of weird signs, no matter how hard I concentrate.

The answer is, of course, that I am getting old. I finally crossed that "before/after" line where I can tell the difference. My friend Shooshoo laughed at my idiocy for not realizing my ripe age. Her father warned her, she said: "You will lose everything: your strength, your sight, your hearing, your endurance, your power of reasoning, your quick wits, your memory, etc.. everything you spent a lifetime acquiring, you will lose it all. Don't think that it happened to your parents, but that somehow you will be spared."

I never missed my youth, not even my past beauty. I think that what I've got in exchange is much more precious: wisdom, experience, character, absolute freedom. But goddam it, why can't I keep on reading? I think that's the skill I would miss most when I will lose my sight or my brain.

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