I will be closing in on my 40th year of life in less than a week now, and while I may be self-centred and all, even I know the crowds of protesters in the central square of Athens aren’t there for me. Protesting seems hardly appropriate, and while I fondly joke about turning 20 for the second time, I’m beginning to understand more and more the old Russian saying, “If you wake up after the age of 40 and nothing hurts, you’re dead.”
I guess it is oddly appropriate that despite all my thoughts of global unity, happiness and mutual understanding between all things, I completely lost it today in the elevator when someone pointed out I had a bee on my shoulder. To my defence, elevators in Greece are very small. I can only imagine what the poor bee thought? If only someone had filmed it I’d finally have that viral video I’ve been dreaming of.
So I ask myself, what exactly have these forty years brought me? Looking off my balcony at the 2,500 year old Parthenon (well, at least where it would be if the view weren’t blocked by construction) I think of Mozart, Schubert, and Mendelssohn who never saw their 40th (or probably the Parthenon either) but nonetheless managed to give us so much. And they did it without high-speed printers, high-speed transportation or high-speed Internet.
True Beethoven lived into his mid-50s, Bach and Brahms into their mid-60s and Liszt into his mid-70s. So, does age bring wisdom? Does talent bring wisdom? Does a combination of both guarantee enlightenment or just increased medical bills?
Old man rambling
Sometimes I have the feeling enlightenment is swimming right above my head, like a shark that just doesn’t seem interested in attacking me. Other times I feel like what Mark Twain said about quitting applies to enlightenment, “Achieving ‘it’ is easy, I’ve done it so many times.” The problem is remaining enlightened. I think one of the main difficulties is, being enlightened just doesn’t seem as interesting as talking about the fact that you’re not enlightened. Remaining enlightened is like giving up chocolate, forever. And really, who can commit to that? I imagine the poor shark, enlightened (but hungry) having similar misgivings.
Murakami makes a great case for appreciating the “now” ness of life, and how satisfying it can be. I remember reading a description of the narrator in “Hard Boiled Wonderland” drinking beer. He described the beer so well it made me immediately want to drink some myself.
The times I was able to remove everything but the task at hand have always been very rewarding. Whether it was composing or washing the dishes. Yet the experience of life is at the same time so simple and so complex. No easy way to separate out all the lives we simultaneously process. And on top of that, Athens has become so incredibly expensive lately.
I wish I could sum things up nicely but the truth is, I’m still only 20 at heart. Somehow the external calendar and my internal one haven’t been on speaking terms for quite some time. On a positive note, I’ve already received my first birthday present, a beautiful Montblanc fountain pen. She looks up at me confused as I sit here typing into my laptop and I can only guess what unenlightened thoughts she’s having about my Mac at this moment.
Julian Gargiulo is a pianist and composer who divides his time between wishing sabre-toothed tigers weren’t extinct and making paper pirate hats out of his old bios. In between his involvement as fundraiser for and friend of diabetes he also finds time for touring with his new album mostlyjulian, working on his nonprofit 16000children.org, curating the Water Island Music Festival in the US Virgin Islands and Crossing Borders of Hunter College in NY, and endlessly walking the streets of New York in search of people to add as Facebook friends.