The arc of a man’s life seems quite clear now: he is conceived, born, grows as best he can under whatever circumstances he is allotted, mates if he can, begets if he can, husbands his assets as best he can to be useful to those he has begotten, beloved and befriended; and, after a while, lets go of—metaphorically or actually—much of the material he has gathered, takes inventory of that which is immaterial but deemed valuable and, before his spirit joins with other spirits departed from this material world, attempts to put all this immateriality to possible further use for his and the general posterity.
By virtue of my peculiar experiences, I find myself in this latter phase while simultaneously occupying earlier phases of my arc.
To be less obscure, I, despite being fundamentally introverted and, in current parlance, nerdish and/or geeky, have married thrice, begotten five times and have done other useful things in the real world—that is, the world outside the confines of my noggin.
Being happily in my third marriage and with a stepdaughter at home, I continue to have all the benefits of an earlier phase of life while, at age 70, I begin to engage in the activities of the latter phases. There has been some adjustment necessary for all connected parties, but these are easily accomplished in an atmosphere of love and affection.
The purpose of this stream of thought and writing is to establish a platform for further writing, both in this blog, and for my “writing career,” however the latter may manifest itself.
Always, the question is, “how can writing words for other to see be useful?”
The free-market answer is, I suppose, “if the words are read then they are, at the least, potentially useful.”
I think it marvelous, and I am grateful for this, that there is such a thing as the Internet and blogs. I know already that a small but growing number of people all over the world look at my words in this blog, upon occasion. This seems to meet my current needs.
I have writer friends who write to publish, and I suppose I will attempt to publish short stories within the next few years. But I don’t seem to have a need for a large audience. I may even be afraid of having a large readership.
Let us say that, for some unexpected reason, I write something that tickles the brain or even touches the soul of people, something that is inadvertently timely and poignant. Let us say that by word of mouth (and Internet referral) I get a large readership in this blog or, more to the point, through a published piece of writing. I imagine then that people will ask me to write more, just as L. Frank Baum was obliged to write ever more of his wonderful Oz stories—14 in all!
There’s the rub. I am at the point in my life’s arc where I wish to proceed along life at my own pace and in any direction. I have been an employee for most of my life and I am happy no longer to be one. I have had large responsibilities in my work life, at one point being the nominal leader of 2000 other employees and being a director of non-profit organizations. I know the burden of public performance and of behaving, unrelentingly, in a responsible manner if only to set an example.
I still feel that responsibility, but now it centers upon being a good example for my children, stepchildren and grandchildren. This responsibility seems easier, somehow. I guess they have to accept me, or not, exactly the way I am, even in my selfish and self-centered moments. They can ignore me, but they can’t fire me. We are ever connected.
On the other hand, there is this need to connect with people through the written word. As my wife, Eva, pointedly and usefully asks, just what is it I want to communicate? My best answer at this point is that my nature is to make sense of the world, to explain it to myself and others. I want to show people what I have learned in a way that makes them want to read the words and, perhaps, engage with me in further conversation.
In summary, I feel this little piece to be a brick in the foundation of what may follow in the writing realm. I was lying in bed, recovering from a chest cold when the phrase “the arc of a man’s life” came to me, and I started to imagine the beginning of this essay. The strength of this phrase got me out of bed and in front of my computer to write the above. I guess that’s what happens to writers. Maybe I am one. We’ll see. You’ll say.