I’ve been thinking a lot – never a good thing, I think – and I’ve realized I’m old. Not “really” old, you know, but older. I’m nearly 50 – will be in a couple of years. I’m saving up, in fact, for a trip to Rome on my 50th Birthday. Bringing the boys with me, and making a whoop of it all.
In confession, Father John has, several times, reminded me that the first 3rd of our life is like the opening of a chess game: we see several options, we may lose a piece here or there, but the game is young and those pieces might even be flippantly sacrificed as we try out our opponent’s strengths. The second third of life – the second third of the game – however, is where we batten down the hatches (if I can be forgiven the mixed metaphor) and really try to drive our opponent down. Now we can’t, except in rare cases, get back something we’ve lost. We daren’t sacrifice any more: if we’ve not learned the reality of our opponent now, we are nearly lost; and we dursn’t make flippant gestures which may cost us the game in its entirety.
Father has been reminding me, in his gentle, loving way that I’m in that second stage – that I have been for 10 or 15 years already. Shouldn’t it be time to do something about it?
This is where I’m wrestling. I recognize that my role now – not only my role, but also my defining relationship with others – is my age and experience. I have moved into a mentor role with most of the folks I know – men and women, gay and straight. Even in gay archetypes, the model for this age is not Alexander and Bagoas or Alexander and Hephaestion, not Achilles and Patroclus but rather Alexander and Aristotle or, if out of balance, Socrates and Alcibiades. It’s almost as if my function, at this age, s the facilitation rather than the production or consumption of things. I’m not so much an “experiencer” as “experienced”. I’m not a go-er, but rather a guide.
And, at my age, I find I’ve done most of the things I enjoy… And most of the things I don’t like I’m nearly wise enough to avoid. What I’m not wise enough, yet, to do, is to help others avoid them. More importantly, I am not wise enough to avoid the things that damage me, that take another pawn or even a rook and toss it out of the game.
But Father John also points out that we can’t keep trying to do things we used to do, early in the game. You know, that saying from various 12 Step programs: “The definition of insanity: trying to do the same things over and over again while expecting different results.” Early in the game you can throw away a pawn or two just to see what happens… but to do it late in the game is silly, stupid even; maybe even sinful. If you’ve learned that something is not a good part of working out your salvation, you should let it go.