The Permanence of Possibilities
It struck me this morning that part of ageing is not the total removal of possibilities for ourselves, but the change in the nature of them: death and decay suddenly appearing on the horizon like travellers looking for a place to rest for the night.
In youth, one’s possibilities are, if not boundless, at least positive in nature – there is always the possibility that something good will happen, specifically, to me. A job, love, children, a shiny new car. It seems to me that middle age is partially about recognising that often bad things will happen, if not to me, then to others. In middle age, possibilities from youth transmogrify into uncertainties and then high unlikelihoods. I think this can affect us in different ways: the resignation of the stoic, the frenetic activity of denial and perhaps a sudden laser-like focus on the one or two possibilities that remain, if not for us, then for our children or family.
It’s heartbreaking then to meet young people who seem, on account of a severe and enduring lack of possibilities in childhood, to have the countenance and disposition of those of in the next generation, or even the next. Perhaps, as we go about our own business, coming to terms with the impermanence of our possibilities, we can pass one on, with hope, to a younger person.
And then there is the dog. As I sat this morning contemplating all this, I asked him what permanent possibility he might dwell upon in his own dear, but tiny, mind. The answer came as a reflex: cats.