"Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return." These familiar words, coming at the moment the priest makes the cross on one's forehead in the ashes of last year's palms, should cause us to spend a few moments in reflection. Alas, in our all-too-hurried lives, that seldom happens.
There is a backhanded comfort at having reached my early sixties. I'm getting comfortable with the idea that the end of my race is in sight. Do I try to finish with a sprint or simply hobble gamely up to the finish line? While health of body and mind is a major factor (I've been lucky on both counts), it helps to remember one's antecedents.
I'm not talking about my physical ancestors. In one of my classes today, I was discussing the eminent historian Carl Becker with my students in the context of the Enlightenment. Becker was a student of the equally-eminent Frederick Jackson Turner and the dissertation director for R.R. Palmer, who was MY dissertation director. All those gentlemen continued to be intellectually productive into advanced old age. Those are good motivational examples.
It's been said that old age and treachery win out over youth and idealism almost every time. I'm grateful for whatever advantages treachery (sometimes called experience) can give me. In some ways, I wish I had sustained my high school love of creative writing. Like many others, I let the demands of career prevail. One advantage I may have over younger writers is that I've had adequate time to see many fads come and go. In a market where E.L. James is a red-hot seller, I'm probably laboring against hopeless odds. But then, there was a time when Jacqueline Susann was also red-hot. All things must pass. Before my life turns to ashes, I'm going to give a sprint to the finish line my best effort.