Recently I stumbled on a startling fact. If you are 83 years old, as I am, the actuarial tables estimate the average date of your future death will occur in 7 years and 7 months.
I find that a sobering consideration. Seven years is not very long. And the seven months don’t add a lot of comfort to the timeline. When I started out on this journey I never thought the conclusion would end so fast. Did you?
An aunt of mine died a few years back at the age of 104. If I make it that far I can count on 21 more years. That’s better, but it’s not as much as I’d like. The real issue now becomes, exactly what to do with the seven or so years if dealt the short hand.
The actor Kevin Bacon in Variety magazine lately commented that at our age (he’s about the same, actually a bit younger) he has started thinking a lot about God.
Now, I figured out a long time ago that I have very serious doubts about the existence of this formidable personality. And the older I get the firmer my opinion becomes that what actually happens at death is quite simply the lights go out and it gets real quiet.
If that’s the given, then seven years and seven months means to me to embrace every moment of life while here, to breath it all in deeply, to taste it to the maximum, and to do so without disturbing anyone else’s doing the same thing.
Which is why I have always admired the French. Their perspective on life is not that of many Americans. Money is not the end- all be-all of life for most of the ordinary people I’ve met on the French streets.
Oh, they know you’ve got to have money, but the point of most of their lives is generally to enjoy the here and how with fervor, to delight in it. They way they bite into a piece of good cheese is accomplished with more gusto than Americans.
I mean a real Frenchman likes cheese as much as sex, I believe. He surely likes wine as much. And a fresh Croixant and a cup of Café Crème or Café au Lait is right up there on the top shelf of life for him too. Those guys and gals are heavy into beauty, you know.
It really thrilled me recently when 100 famous French actresses wrote an open letter to American women warning them against too strongly attacking men for their sexual aggressiveness.
Don’t take me wrong. I’m not for men forcing themselves on women. However, the point the French women made was that, after all, it is the coupling of men and women that creates life. They suggested the real job was for both sides to keep busy seducing each other.
The French actresses, who’d had to deal with aggressive men all their lives, said that learning how to finesse men’s high attention and become a real woman was to make a serious sport of fending off men without arousing their anger.
American women don’t much like that concept, I think. They often seem to feel they must become more aggressive than males in the defense of their honor. Good old pious American capitalist competitive spirit invades their sex life.
I know this is a delicate subject. So, I’m not going to go into a lot of detail. The point I’m trying to get to is that I like the French attitude to life in general so attractive, that I’ve been negotiating a Paris apartment.
Unless my seven years are dramatically and suddenly curtailed, I’m going to move to Paris and use it as home base from which to explore France, Great Britain, Scandinavia, and Greece, I hope, – and who knows what else?
And when I do, I’m going to enjoy viewing America from outside and writing of it from a European point of view. I’m just not wildly comfortable with what America has become in the past four years or so.
After living in Europe in the Army, I’ve always felt Americans are like little children. Now I think we’ve reached a crossing point where Americans may have almost actually grown up. Just not yet.
Americans still want what they want when they want it. And they damned well intend to get it, no matter what it costs. I think they need to learn how to value life more, how to appreciate it, with less. But I know I don’t know how to help them.
Therefore, I’m going to reinvent my life in Paris. While I put that act together, I may not have a lot of time to write. So, just wait. Once I get in my new digs set up, I will definitely jot you a note.
I can’t promise you my writing will be profound. But it’s going to be one thing, It’s going to be fun. The world has become so tendentious I’m going to concentrate right here between my ears on finding the beauty and the pleasure in it.
Seems like a good way to use 7 years and 7 months. And if an extra 14 years up to 21 get added onto it, well we’ll see. It’s awfully early in life to look too far into the future. Except, I do hear that a good number of lonely old Contessas have extra rooms in their Villas over there to rent.
Maybe I’ll meet one and we can get to know each other. One never knows.