Pascal, the French philosopher and Enlightenment writer had suffered poor health beginning at 18; the poor man died at 39. Sickness separates us one from another more than just about anything else. The healthy do reside in a separate land. Thus, I do not understand why Pascal’s ill health did not provoke a yearning for exploration in him as opposed to the desire for stillness voiced in Pensees: “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” I wonder if he would have written that sentence if he had been healthy.
I cannot abide stillness for very long. I have to earn it. Move first, work first, second and third and then and only then may I read, write, watch a movie. The work ethic never stops churning out its harpy commands of Do This, Remember Your List, This First, Get Up. So I rise and do and work and make things neat and cross out items on a list made new each day. I actually like the harpy voice. Better to move than to dissolve into an armchair, embalmed within an endless silence. I like working under the open sky, and I like the neighbors who walk or drive by and stop to talk. Then I will happily put the rock or rake down and lean over the fence and pass the time.
Two border collies grant me permission to walk in every empty place I can find. I would be out there anyway, but they give me cover. Otherwise, I’d just be a big, lurching thing in a raggedy barn coat walking in bad weather, alone and fast, toward some uncertain soul … instead of a harmless man with white hair smiling at two dogs who bounce around the trail as if filled with amphetamines. The dogs make me gentler, give others the perception that I am not a lunatic, and keep me heading out the door a dozen times a day.
It is too late to change the pattern; I hope I can keep this up for several more millenia. Time enough for rest when that final ticking of the clock comes clear to my hearing.
Mick Jagger is 70, Keith Richards will join him at that mark in a few days; the Stones have not recorded a memorable song in years, but they are still out there, as wrinkled as relief maps, but wired and refusing to give up their juice. I like their geezer funk. I still turn the volume all the way up when one of their songs comes on and shimmy like a broken puppet in the car seat, trying to obey their command to move (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_APFXcg04E).