I find that I have (once again) made it to the sunlit uplands of thirty. On this occasion, I find myself forced to use base-17 for this statement to work, and would note that this is not one of the more practical number bases bequeathed to us by mathematicians past. I suppose it could have some applications for a particular family of periodic cicadas – assuming that, once we are gone, they develop capabilities in the field of mathematics- but otherwise it has little to commend it beyond permitting me to maintain a flimsy pretense of relative youth. Otherwise, I would be forced to look to geology or cosmology to place my age in a broader, and more favourable, context.
At times such as these, it is perhaps appropriate to look back at one’s time on this earth and look forward to an end to travelling hopefully and the uncertain rewards of arrival. However, if it is that sort of insight you are looking for you have very much come to the wrong blog in search of satisfaction.
Yesterday morning when I was from my bed untimely ripp’d by the 5am alarm, everything ached and I did wonder whether this was the future. In fact, fairly simple analysis strongly implicated the past and my foolish vigour in the gym the previous morning. If I’m honest, between the gym and the guitar, this middle-aged dog is making reasonable progress in his attempt to learn some new tricks. Beware: should his mastery ever reach a level where he is confident enough to perform in public, he will be more than willing to bore a small (or, preferably, a large) crowd (and, it would seem, refer to himself in the third person).
For now, my faculties – such as they are (or were) – remain undimmed by the entirely unasked-for passage of time. The hair may be greyer and I do need two pairs of glasses (though I have resisted the urge to take either into the shower) but, other than occasionally catching a glimpse of my father in the mirror, the constant near-misses by a speeding winged chariot have been pretty kind to the author. (Well, if we ignore the fact that he is spending his Thursday evening in one of the less salubrious areas of Dublin airport – an area where bare aluminium is as close as a chap can get to seated comfort – awaiting a Q400 Dash 8).
I do, however, increasingly catch myself acting out a rather strange, almost caricatured, version of humanity. Sometimes it feels as if I have done all the background reading, but lack some critical element of practical experience in the art of being a human. On the whole other people don’t seem to notice – or are at least sufficiently polite (or scared) not to bring any failings to my attention. Nonetheless, I can’t help wondering what they make of the strange collection of habits and tics (mostly borrowed, without attribution, from others) that, for what of something better, I am forced to describe as my personality. Such introspection may not be helped by websites often asking me to confirm that I am not a robot. I tend to reply in the affirmative: but can I really be sure? Can anyone be sure that this post hasn’t been written by a sub-Turing AI?
It is such ponderings that bring us back to the title. I have often been known to refer to myself as a terrible human being. I tend to leave my audience to decide in which context those words should be interpreted (for myself, I tend to assume all possible contexts have some validity). I suspect it is too late to do much to improve my simulation of a normal person – when I was younger, I felt I should make an effort (though never to a sufficient extent to do anything about it) to be more normal, but such impulses faded some time ago. Still, there are probably a few “normal” human activities I should plan to fit in before I part company with my mortal coil: perhaps I’ll make a list one day…
Still, enough of this navel-gazing: the other passengers are starting to look at me strangely and this departure “lounge” really isn’t warm enough to remain topless much longer. Here’s to the next 30 years – in whatever number base the gods are willing to grant them to me!