Michael Gottlieb / Letters to a Middle-Aged Poet / 17


At what point do we say to ourselves: I need to be, I should be, I have to be happy, satisfied, resigned – perhaps, there is no way around it – with this?

And, the question, the follow-on question insists, pokes its nose under the tent: for whom does this not apply? Who among us, regardless of their walk of life, their instantiation in our life, in our world, in – it just may be – in any world… who amongst any of us is not obliged to ask herself or himself this very question?

For in the very same way, and is it not perhaps the same issue, the same contention, confusion or delusion… it is often said that there is always someone tougher, more deadly, or a better, more lethal fighter or combatant than you, than any of us, someone always out there bigger or badder, is there not? …in absolutely the same way there is always someone who has achieved, accomplished, accrued, more than any of us – at least when we look at whatever we deem as, define as accomplishment? And perhaps it is only when we reach a certain age, and have enough – enough years, enough accomplishments, enough failures, whatever, of our own – that we can draw these kinds of comparisons; comparisons between ourselves and those who we think, or used to think, we could have turned into, might in fact well have turned into had we not tried to live this life we’ve at least essayed an attempt at. So, we end up, don’t we, measuring ourselves against some other – appropriately or not – some other ‘we,’ in those before-dawn hours of superannuated end-stage, middle-aged fecklessness, during which we come finally to the conclusion that there is no conclusion other than we’ve fallen terribly short?

We lie there in the dark, through those grim, unredeeming hours, comparing ourselves to them. And they know who they are, we can be sure. And why are we not consoled by this thought: that they themselves are similarly comparing themselves to others, and finding themselves as having fallen just as decisively short?

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