Thursday, January 07, 2010

Ars longa, vita brevis

I've just been looking at a 2010 year planner, trying to work out the best way to break up my four weeks' annual holiday. I never normally do things like this. Planning is generally an anathema to me, as other people keeping buggering things up by dying, becoming pregnant, falling in love with someone from another country or simply changing their mind.

The one exception to this is foreign travel. If I ever go abroad, I like to memorise maps, learn the local language and refresh my unarmed combat training. It's a jungle out there.

Planning the year ahead was a particularly depressing experience. Four weeks holiday. I saw a whole monochrome future laying ahead of me, with only brief, tantalising glimpses of colour to taunt me. Is that living?

I was reminded of this banned British Xbox commercial:

As adverts go, it's a shocking, visceral masterpiece and it's fascinating how, in an age in which nudity and swearing are no longer taboos on television, the D word is still unacceptable for many.

Death is popular on television, but only within specific genres that present it as an aberration that can be resolved once the perpetrator is detected and caught, or defeated in battle. Real death, it seems, is too unpalatable.

But death is there, behind everything, looking over my shoulder as I peruse the 2010 year planner, sitting next to me in the car as I drive to work and quietly laughing when I talk about the future.

There are so many things that I want to do with my life and I'm not sure if I can stand to devote two-thirds of my life to a full-time job, putting my dreams on hold until retirement.

At the moment, I feel like Max von Sydow in this film:

I know that ultimately, it will always end in checkmate, but I can and least try and take control of the game for a while.


Harry Tournemille said...

Cold comfort can be found in Ars Moriendi.

Brett said...

I hear you. Thanks for the clip of The Seventh Seal. I haven't seen that film since college. Nobody does it like Bergman.

Anonymous said...

Ah but you decided to have children ... you might need to consider your dreams in terms of your responsibility to them ...

That can be a rather deflating idea but since we have untreated, uncleared roads many places it seems suitable.

At the age of 40 I moved from Canada to England ... it is never too late to change everything.

Steerforth said...

Cold comfort indeed!

As far as having children is concerned, they are central to my plans. What I'd like to do is change the way I work to give me more time - something that would hopefully be good for them too.

Jim Murdoch said...

Not quite giving birth astride a grave but very effective. Can't believe it was banned. It reminded me of this Irn Bru ad.

Motherhood The Final Frontier said...

I've just discovered your blog through Mrs.T- what a joy!
I shall be back to rifle through more of your blog's back catalogue but in the mean time I can only say that I feel your pain re. the quiet sense of doom that settles when faced with forward planning.

Steerforth said...

Thank you Mrs Motherhood - I've just visited your blog and the first thing I saw was Edward Gorey's Gashlycrumb Tinies, which is one of my favourite books!

Your blog has just joined my Firefox bookmarks list.

Ms Baroque said...

Retirement? What retirement? I'm just expecting to be dirt poor when I retire. (They'll have to make me. I'll be needing the money.)

Steerforth said...

My "pension" will probably cover one day's food per week, but given the precarious state of the financial industry, I'm not prepared to let people like Equitable Life look after my money.

The Poet Laura-eate said...

The X box advert is hilarious. In what way is one supposed to expend and extend one's span meaningfully by losing oneself in gaming?

I empathise with all your thoughts and like yourself am doing my best to leave some profound writing behind for posterity, aside from the silly stuff which so quickly dates.

Let's hope our blogs endure forever too.

Helen Brocklebank said...

I'm mostly mired in a slough of existential angst at the realisation that I'm just hurtling towards death (love that commercial, by the way, and I agree-what nonsense to take it off air). But that's January for you. Catch me in late March: I'm much more cheerful.

Ollie said...

I used to think that full-time employment stank - and then I tried freelancing.

Suddenly, working in an office from nine to five did not seem so bad!

Happy New Year! I hope it is not your last!