Sunday, November 22, 1981
Myself at fifty, looking back
Dad arrived just after we'd got up, bringing with him a basket of fruit and a bunch of flowers for Carol. She's touched by the big fuss everyone's making. The morning passed in good humour, playing with the now half-grown kittens, reading the newspapers, and talking. At half-past twelve, to our surprise, Carol’s Mum and Dad knocked at the door. Her Mum is a big, flashy woman, very false.t was the first time I'd seen them since Robert and Carol got married six years ago. Robert doesn’t really get on with them and so things were slightly uneasy and strained after this; Mum said later that he’d been getting really worked up in the kitchen.
We left after dinner. As he came to see us off, Robert seemed very low and depressed and on the way back, Mum again said that Carol’s worried that he's on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Last night I felt so sorry for him; he looked so hemmed in and shackled by his circumstances, as though all the idealistic zest and enthusiasm is being hammered out of him.
In the evening, Mum, Dad, and I watched a programme about America’s creationists and got involved in a discussion which once again reduced me to shivering excitement over its possibilities. We talked about religion and now I am really unsure. What's man’s natural state really like, stripped of all social conventions? If human nature is just greed, prejudice, and injustice as Mum believes, then what's the point of anarchism, of anything?
I tried tactfully to introduce talk about a sort of anarchist Thoreau view, a return to the land and me and Dad actually agreed for once and I almost started to believe I’d discovered something. We started throwing around the idea of Earth spirits, earth goddesses, etc., and wondered if we've lost something here in the sophisticated, prepackaged, industrialised West. Our roots and connections with the land have gone and with them fulfillment and happiness. Aren't those societies (the ones we call ‘backward') where people have the strongest ties with the earth the ones with the strongest sense of cultural identity and community? Societies where people live from the earth, work with it and are (silly as it sounds) one with it?
I said that there must be more to life than the utter emptiness of the ones we all lead now with their plastic mediocrity and nine-to-five existences of bed, work, home, TV, bed. "There's got to be an answer, somehow!" And so on. Mum said I sounded “typically adolescent.”
But it’s true. Everyone seems to go through life dissatisfied, discontented, unhappy. The 'sensible' and 'decent' values drummed into us from birth – marriage, a house and a mortgage (of course!), settling down, drifting through life to the grave – are all so grey and artificial and pointless. My dissatisfaction with school and (my lack of) social life, Buddhism, TM, the urges to drink and the round-the-world thing last year, anarchism, it all points the same way. . . . I'm searching for how to say something about whatever 'it' is that I'm looking for; maybe it's some sort of meaning or order or maybe it's just excitement. Whatever it is, it's been said before I'm sure but it's true anyway. It all connects.
Mum ended up crying, saying that we all seem so sad and that she sometimes thinks she's somehow brought us up badly. "All I ever want is for you to be happy yet you seem sad". . . and there’s Robert, 28 now, and I get the feeling he's sickened off with his job and his life. Andrew, equally so. And I see myself at fifty, looking back and feeling the same, but knowing it isn’t worth it, wondering where everything went. "We all think too much, we get it off Dad, because really he’s just the same." Those people with tranquil and unremarked upon existences who are never disturbed or discontented: are they happy? Maybe this is why people drink themselves to death. To escape.
I don’t suppose there's an answer really.