At Life’s Peak

Erasmo Calzadilla

Facing abyss. Photo: macnimation @ flickr

HAVANA TIMES — At the end of March, I had the immense fortune of finding a well-paying job with a construction brigade (the kind that does restoration work in historic sites around Old Havana), with a nice guy for a boss. The first day, I hammered away energetically, eager to get to the end of the month and to collect my 60 CUC.

I swallowed up more dust than a vacuum cleaner and spent the night trying to get tiny pebbles out of my eyes. The worst of it was that awakened an old lesion that lay dormant in one of my arms. The following day, the pain was so intense I had to call it quits.

I have to face up to it: I am no longer a vigorous teenager. I am a middle aged man with incipient gray hairs and wrinkles (I turned 39 recently).

If life were a symmetrical mountain, the age of 39 would be more or less the peak. It turns out, however, that the peak of my life is coinciding with the conventional oil peak and, consequently, with the peak of Western civilization as we know it. Everything seems to indicate, dear readers, that the way down will be steep and dangerous – with a bit of luck, we’ll manage to skirt a catastrophe a la Hollywood.

My life, and the lives of many of you, will be derailed along with the train of the economy, the environment and the availability of food and drinking water. In a future with highly deteriorated medical services, any of the deadly conditions my parents endure or overcame (cancer, diabetes, cardiac arrests, ulcers) will have me pushing up daisies sooner rather than later. I don’t believe I’ll be enjoying another 39 springs.

In any event, I’ve had my share. During the first “half” of the picture, I’ve wasted time with the same indolence with which Havana’s water company squanders the product that is it’s raison d’étre.

The net energy curve.

This first season has been long and a little tedious – I’ve lived carelessly, like a crazed ant that doesn’t know where to lay its eggs. What’s more, for some time now I’ve lived with the certainty that there are no more surprises in store for me.

Joys and sorrows…sure; surprises in lower case, I have no doubt about it (something as crazy as an alien abduction could conceivably happen to me). But Surprises (in upper case), that I don’t think I’ll be seeing. What do I mean by “Surprises”?

A pleasant Surprise, for instance, would be to see people become sensible and sensitive to the pain of others, for the world to put aside the arms race and devote its time to undo the many disasters it has brought about. Not very likely, right? That’s right, and that gets me down.

To cut a long story short, folks, I’ve reached the summit of my life and gazing at the road travelled and the paths still to traverse from this vantage point isn’t exactly encouraging. The climb up has been perilous and the way down frightens me. If I had a choice in it, I would love to avoid having the second part of my life resemble the first.

What do I plan on doing to avoid this?

First of all, I plan on focusing and managing my time zealously. I intend not to waste the long or little time I have left. I would love for inner reflection to be the guiding force of my actions, wherever possible.

I also want to struggle for the Cause. I long for emotion, commitment and meaning – and with them the courage to confront the gradual decline of my physical and mental faculties will depend on this, in good measure.

I would feel very frustrated if, at 50, I found myself begging some monarch for a raise in salaries, or if, at 60, I discovered myself lamenting the passivity with which my generation accepted the violation of its human, political and civil rights.

The second part of my life will be hectic and perhaps short, but I hope it will not be boring or alienated. It’s already started, so it’s time to knuckle down.

One thought on “At Life’s Peak

  • Don’t worry, Erasmo, you still have “miles to go before [you] sleep,” About “struggling for the Cause,” be careful what you wish for…you might just get it, and find the outcome disillusioning. You’re right about not being distracted by, umm, “distractions.” Our time is too precious. Once used, it is gone. For the most part, popular culture is both wasteland and a waste of time. On the other time, I’ve never regretted the time spent reading a good book, viewing a good film, watching a great performance (a few months ago, I was fortunate enough to see a version of “Death of a Salesman” performed by a local community theatre; it was as good as, if not better, than the Broadway version I saw many years before), or enjoying a painting which opens my eyes to new ways of interpreting reality. Finally, I’d say that one of the greatest of all treasures is friendship. Many of my friends have already come to the end of their roads, but I am glad I shared theirr company before they passed over to the other side. One final insigt. As I approach the end of the road I seem to become ever more “in the present,” enjoying the sights, sounds, smells of the environment immediately surrounding me. Now that this long, dark, seemingly endless Vermont winter is at its close, I will be able to open the windows and hear the real birds chirping away (and not just their pale echoes, courtesy of Robert J. Lurstema’s “Morning Pro Musica” Birds on YouTube). As soon as “mud season” is over, I will be able to once again walk the trails in the Green Mountains (though with walking stick, and at a much slower rate).

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