On Sunday I went to http://www.visitmima.com/ (of which more in a couple of days). There was a really powerful installation there about life; about growing old and about dying. There is something in Heidegger’s phrase about most of us existing in a state of ‘tranquilised everydayness’ with denial of our own finiteness (just watch most adverts to see this in action). Or as a poet put it at least 2500 years before:-
‘So teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart’
Aging is something that I have been much more aware of this last year with my oldest son who is now 11. Wheras before, he and his brother seemed to be like merely older versions of small children, now he is rapidly physically, mentally, socially and physiologically changing. It is exciting, but bittersweet; he is beginning (and I hope you will forgive me for this) to be ‘slipping through my fingers’.
Time then, to begin to introduce him to some of my own cultural markers that he is just about ready for (I try with the music, but he simply doesn’t ‘get’ Radiohead, Gruff Rhys, Duke Special, U2, Safjan Stevens etc etc, although his younger brother does). Time then to introduce him to ‘Gladiator’: we watched it together this weekend.
‘How can you watch this: it is violent and bloody?’ intoned his mother (who happens to be my wife): ‘That is exactly the point’. So we sat there, he and me, under a duvet, drinking in a film that gets better each time I watch it. I get goosebumps each time I see Russell Crowe stare at the screen and say:-
‘My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius. Commander of the Armies of the North. General of the Felix Legions. Loyal servant to the true Emperor,Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife – and I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next’.
He said it was ‘quite good’, for which I nearly disinherited him (no son- you will not have half my Wisden Cricketer’s Almanacs on my death: that and my overdraft will go to your brother), although he has said he wants to watch it again.
Did you see what I did there: existential questions of death and existence ending in pop culture? See…I am really shallow:- it is not just an act.