In my last blog I said that old men with remorse were as common as corn in Iowa and that an old man without remorse was a rare and precious being, or too stupid to know his mistakes or too scared to acknowledge them. I woke on my fourth day in Paris prepared to write of street musicians and art and cathedral bells, but feel first the need to put more nuance on what I said.
I never said most old men should feel remorse, but I do say that most do feel remorse, and most of those have reason to. Note: I’m speaking of Western men, they are my vast field of experience.
Look around. Who are the saddest, old men or old women? Is it the majority of old men or old women who giggle, hug, and twinkle? Yesterday I was on Skype with my 96-year-old mother and when I told her I loved her, she said “I’m glad I kept you.” Try beating that.
My life contains older men who do laugh, hug, make jokes, and twinkle, who lived, and live, with integrity and empathy. Those qualities, along with great storytelling, burnished their being. They glow. I’m writing this blog so they know I see.
My life can be played as an organ, the kind in each of the cathedrals surrounding me in the 6th arrondissement. Want precious rare old men, male peers? Pull out that stop and the music broadens with divine older men. Want children zipping by as highlights? Pull out that stop and little people in bright colors run by holding hands and zooming toy airplanes.
Want the solo sounds of a lute curling upward? Pull out the stop for a younger man.
Want serenity? Pull out the stop for silence dressed as a younger man who controls a glass globe, precarious life, translucent, on his fingertips. Have him in front of the cathedral at rue Bonaparte and blvd. Saint Germain across from where Hemingway, always old and young, wrote at the restaurant Les Deux Magots.
Want transcendence? Watch the glass ball and know that reaching old age without breakage requires concentration, the light touch, recognizing what is precious, discarding what is not.