The fate of a middle-aged Englishman? By L J Frank

 

Image for Writings
Credit: Jean Philippe-Cypres, photographer

It occurred over a period of time. A middle-aged Englishman working on behalf of an employer of his special skills consulted with others about his findings that would best not be publicly discussed. He retrieved a confidential dossier from a fine leather briefcase and wearing his best diplomatic face he handed the document to said employer.

The document, the effect of a clandestine operation, if accurate was embarrassing though less than sacred, appeared to breathe life into an intriguing event in a cold place known for its unusual clientele and their games, that was in turn a bit too indiscreet for this middle-aged man of discretion who knew with good reason that the seeker of truth, as a Zen Buddhist might say, is wise to drop his opinions and look at the facts.

I also suppose he realized that arriving at ‘middle age’ has it own rewards, which according to the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or DSM-IV is from about 45 to 65 years of age, but what is a norm today? Personally I suspect he never thought any age was a definitive location on the mental health trajectory of any given person humbled by the education and experiences of life and within the context of their own genetics. Though admittedly the nature of his business cultivated the wrinkles on his face even when a specific reality had the distinct surreal flavor of a Luis Buñuel film while correspondingly his experience acknowledged that alternative relationships exist.

The man knew from years of intimate experience that the flesh and the mind age differently. So it came to pass that listening to a younger colleague while walking along the North Sea coast the woman grinned and suggested she had already known something others of her company may not have and so offered her older colleague the following insight to  humor him – that the human soul, if you make a leap of faith, is ageless, hence, no middle age.

And it’s worth noting that with each excursion the middle-aged Englishman took from the countryside to London or elsewhere he recognized it was different than the previous day’s jaunt. An existing moment is never precisely the same as a previous one, except he came to realize there was an interesting detail that remained identical in the beginning of each commute. For each time he got into the car and turned on the ignition and the radio turned off, he heard in the recesses of his brain the same classical guitarist playing the Second Movement (Adagio) of the Concierto de Aranjuez. Though never understanding why, it actually wasn’t a concern or so he decided. It was a just classical piece of music that found a home in his head. For ultimately the only thing that mattered was the rhythmic dialogue the music had with the journey of his spirit and the element of chance that he might not reach his destination as planned. It’s of some interest that his life currently retains a strategic quiet and one wonders if his mind moved on to the Third and Fourth Movements.

As an epilogue, on the shelf of Blackwell’s bookshop on Surrey Street, Charing Cross, London was a book by Ezra Pound that the middle-aged Englishman had mentioned to his younger female colleague while walking along the coast. Inside the book was a quote in one the chapters he recalled one morning while driving and listening to his mind play Rodrigo’s Adagio – “One of the pleasures of middle age is to find out that one was right and that one was righter than one knew at say 17 or 23.”