Staying focused

“Dear Mr. Phillips,”  the note began.  It wasn’t a solicitation from Publisher’s Clearinghouse, but a real note and that, coupled with the formal greeting, should have started the brain working.  But I took no notice of the “Mister” thing and went right on reading.  The young university student wanted to photograph me.  An assignment for a class, she said.  They needed “environmental photos” of people at work.  She was a music lover, so the music store seemed logical to her.  Maybe I could do a repair on her guitar while she shot pictures.

I love pictures, especially ones with me in them.  I know that’s more telling than anything else I’ve said before in these posts.  You’re probably thinking “narcissist”  and “arrogant” right about now, and you might be right. But, I bet most of you do it too, don’t you?  You see pictures of an event you attended and can’t avoid sweeping all the photos with a glance to see if your image is there.  Of course, you notice others you’re familiar with, but you want to see yourself too.  We love to remember events with ourselves participating in them.  I think that’s human nature, but I may be about to change my modus operandi with regards to photos.

The young lady was very nice, allowing me to work while snapping dozens of pictures.  Every once in awhile, she would ask me to look at the camera and “smile”, to make a change from my usual glaring demeanor, I suppose.  How does one “smile” at a camera without it being fake?  The only smiles I have ever thought natural in a photo were those taken candidly, while I was smiling at a funny statement, or even roaring at an even funnier joke.  I don’t “smile” at cameras, because the cardboard caricature which emerges from the little box never makes me happy enough to really smile later, either.

As she left, I wondered aloud if she would be so kind as to email me a few of the better pictures, after her project was behind her.  She assured me that she would and this evening, a couple of emails arrived with the photo files attached.  I’m sure that she did her best work, but I think the camera must have malfunctioned as she snapped the images.  The guy in all of the pictures looks at least 50 years old!  How is that possible?  I could understand, if she had an old man for a subject, but this is me!  Well, all right, I am over 50, but that’s no excuse for not doing better work.

Sometimes, an action or isolated event, disturbs our fantasies of life as we want it to be.  We’re suddenly disillusioned and face reality.  This isn’t one of those times.  The camera must have been malfunctioning.  That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.  The old guy in those photographs won’t exist for another ten years or so.  Well, not in my head anyway.  One of the things I believe to be true is that if you think you’re old, you’ll act old.  Maybe the inverse is also true:  Act old and you’ll think you’re old.  For some reason, unfathomable to me, the generation just older than mine, my parent’s contemporaries, wanted to be older.  They ran helter-skelter for old age like it was a badge of honor to be won.  No physical games, no biking, no skate boarding, no fun allowed.  Card games, golf, and book clubs for them.  If you could be solemn enough, staid enough, sedate enough, you could win the prize.  Respect would be yours, and everlasting renown. 

Not for me, thanks!  I want to ride on the skate-boards with the kids, bike down the hills (not so much up them), and keep moving.  I understand kids and their unwavering objective of doing new things, learning new concepts, and getting a little scraped up in the process.  At least in my brain, that’s who I still am, so the pictures, while possibly factually authoritative, do not reflect the real me.  I’m pretty sure that I’ll always be a kid inside and will always love the new toys, always be looking for new ways to do the old jobs, and hopefully, always be looking for new things to learn.  With that really old rocker, Rod Stewart, I’d like to be “Forever Young”!

“Everyone is the age of their heart.”
(Guatemalan proverb)

“Father Time is not always a hard parent, and, though he tarries for none of his children, often lays his hand lightly upon those who have used him well; making them old men and women inexorably enough, but leaving their hearts and spirits young and in full vigour.  With such people the grey head is but the impression of the old fellow’s hand in giving them his blessing, and every wrinkle but a notch in the quiet calendar of a well-spent life. “
(Charles Dickens)

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