can get old. All you have to do is live long enough. (Groucho Marx).
Precisely. Anyone can grow old; so why jump on the bandwagon? Immortality
may be the craze for assorted gods, goddesses and Texan millionaires
but dying young has always been much more glamorous. Take the gods of
Greek mythology for example, what did they achieve with their longevity?
World peace, an end to famine? No, these gods spent their time bickering,
having amazingly complicated sex-lives, transforming themselves into
various animals, changing others into statues, trees, rivers and
well anything that came to mind really. Actually that all sounds rather
But this isnt ancient Greece. Modernity forces an old age on us
which means a sudden interest in bingo and an almost deviant desire
for slippers and hot milky drinks. Probably Im being needlessly
stereotypical here and Jesus, does that piss old people off! I recently
heard a radio programme concerning the portrayal of the elderly on television.
Its focus was a series of interviews with old people complaining that,
in features such as One Foot in the Grave, they were consistently
shown to have nothing better to do with their time than complain. Well
actually I assumed that Victor, in the aforementioned show, was such
a whinger because he was a Virgo but obviously the elderly missed this
subtlety. Anyway Ive been feeling a little depressed recently
so if any radical old people want to challenge my prejudices with tales
of daring sky dives and all night ecstasy-fuelled raves then please
email I could do with cheering up. But Virgoens can just pull
themselves together and shut up and perhaps spend a little more time
nursing their persecution complexes
ha! (diabolical laughter).
Yes it is definitely wiser to give arthritis and community jumble sales
a miss and reach for the early death option. Of course this probably
means you will die horribly and traumatically but at least you will
be memorable. Try enlisting The Fortean Times Book of Strange Deaths
for inspiration. Note: death by snowball-related suffocation, entwining
self with a garden hose and pet turtle inflicted head injuries have
all been taken. Of course fame acquits you of the crime of conventionality.
James Dean, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix all legendary figures
who had the foresight to die young. Ohh uncanny, they all have names
beginning with j; is this a portent? Plus they all became
ex-people, ceased to be, expired and went to meet their maker (enough
Monty Python references already) at about the same age, twenty seven
or twenty-eight. Better do some research and write a best seller. Oh
yeah Kurt Cobain real first name Jennifer. Maybe.
The point is that the public is fascinated by these figures. Commonly
we allude to the tragic waste in discussing their deaths.
But honestly, perhaps we should be relieved. Is this incredibly insensitive?
Consider the evidence. James Dean beautiful, charismatic, wild
dies with his dignity intact. Marlon Brando, once similarly gifted,
lives only to purchase forklift trucks in increasing sizes with which
to transport both his monumental figure and his ego. Jimi Hendrix, Kurt
Cobain: would they have retained their rock n roll credibility
if they had lived to perform duets with Elton John and a series of rap
artists in a misconceived attempt to engage with a youthful audience?
A middle aged Janis Joplin performing on the lottery programme? Commentators
are always extolling the dangers of the music world young performers
cast into a nightmare world of drugs and debauchery. Obviously the real
danger is inherent in the fact that musicians might not get caught
up in drugs and debauchery and instead continue way past their prime.
Oi Rod Stewart, Im talking to you. Its better to burn out
than fade away
Well maybe I dont believe everything Im saying. This is
my prerogative as a writer. And a pathological liar. I admit it, my
perspective is warped, Im only twenty-one. A desperate need to
cling to life at all costs has not yet kicked in. Rather I try to avoid
it. By hiding in duck ponds and disguising myself as cheese plants and
that sort of thing. Oh dear getting late where was I? Bloody
short term memory. Oh yeah, when Im ninety-two Im sure to
screech Im NINETY-TWO you know with pride (coupled
with relief I suppose) at anyone who will listen.
Nevertheless, I have no aspiration to live to a hundred and beyond.
The worlds not actually getting any better is it? Global warming,
nuclear threats from religious fanatics, an American president with
all the intelligence and grammatical accuracy of an amoeba and a multitude
of other life stuff to be labelled under the heading of deeply
depressing. Plus its fairly likely that I have mad cow disease
I base this assumption on a recurring desire to leave the warmth
and normalcy of my flat and run, run to the fields! Eat grass all day,
sleep, then eat more grass. Perhaps Ive just been working too
hard. Er thats a lie actually perhaps Ive just been
thinking about the prospect of working too hard. And as Bob Dylan
so succinctly put it, time is an ocean, but it ends at the shore
and I left my 3,000-word essay on the boat, a shark ate it, my mum spilt
seaweed on it
Actually Im not quoting him verbatim but I
think this is the true essence of his words at least it would
be if he had my workload.
Oh well if I live forever, maybe I could actually get something done
© Jess Wynne 2001