By Arthur H. Gunther III
There comes a day when you see a certain face, on a relative, friend or former acquaintance, and you realize time has passed, that age has added lines, that days of happiness, difficulty, excitement, boredom and the sometime ordinariness of living have left telltale trails on a visage that is unique to that person.
Maybe it’s because we don’t look at each other all the time, or at least notice how each other looks on a regular basis, that we don’t see the individual collecting his years (nor, perhaps, do we see our own aging). Every once in a while, though, we seem to leave the close proximity of it all and step back to suddenly notice the person (even ourselves) in a detached way, almost as an unbiased observer.
It is in that moment that a relative or friend or acquaintance appears to us changed, and that is usually for the better. For we all age, we all have our ups and downs, we all move on, whether it is on the treadmill of life or making the heady climb to whatever is our summit. We are then, at the end, the sum of our experiences, and at any point before that the total of all that has happened so far.
Except for the most hard luck-driven individual, or the person who seems unable or unwilling to obtain some good days, people move toward that summit on relatively clear trails, even if some are unmarked, the many experiences etching the face like so many notches on a Bowie knife. Your childhood. School. Romance. Work. Marriage. Hobbies. Hard times. Good times. They all make their mark on our faces, and it is other people who see the road map most clearly.
Yet nature or your god provides those detached moments when you suddenly get an update on the individual (or yourself). One day you spot this person and note the changes, or you get up in the morning and acutely see yourself in the mirror.
Such glimpses seem so true in their depth of insight, in their perspective that time has gone by, that things have happened, that you or he or she is still there, that the journey continues.
There can be grand glory in all this, a small smile at noting how well someone is doing, or even that the person has simply survived his or her travails.
It is a reaffirmation of life, surely, of our own, that we see such change, note it and store the information in the computer that is the mind (logic) and add to the mass of feelings that is the spirit. This brings a reality check that shows we all live sometimes challenging lives, that we are all climbing a mountain of some sort.
Imagine if we were not able to step back and take that detached look, at ourselves or someone else? We might all live entirely in the past, in a time when we were 16 and the face was without wrinkles, just the oiled blemishes of puberty and all the wonder that that promised.
No, even as we write the chapters in our lives, or have some lines written for us, we are given a chance to sit down and read the proofs of what so far is written. In that, we might still alter the ending, and in that we can appreciate, even savor, what’s been put down so far.
The writer is a retired newspaperman. This essay is adapted from an earlier one. firstname.lastname@example.org