The Watcher Cat

The Watcher Cat

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Assurance of Age...

Look above, and watch John Houseman receiving the Oscar for best Supporting Actor in The Paper Chase (1973) Catch how nervous he is, under the patrician demeanor--he stumbles in his words, he stammers just a bit. This, from one of the most superbly self-confident men I've ever seen on screen or met (and by great good fortune, I did both).

When I was in my teens, and watched Houseman in the TV adaptation, I used to think--look at bloody him. So at one with himself, so poised. Awful, sometimes, of course, but still--not anxious, not busting a gut trying to impress/please people. When I'm old--maybe when I'm middle-aged, even--I can be like that--not giving a damn. And so I looked forward to the serenity of growing older.

It doesn't happen, though, at least not on its own. Look at how nervous Professor Kingsfield is at the acme of his career right there above.

As I am now solidly middle-aged, I don't hanker for my youth. I'm pretty content now, by and by. But that unearned serenity I thought would be dropped off with the gray hair? Hasn't come yet, worse luck. Or maybe not. Maybe serenity only comes when we train ourselves to it. Or maybe it never comes at all, if we haven't made it a part of who we really are. Because I doubt that our professional personae hold up that well as we age; I suspect that Robertson Davies had it right when he wrote that "As we neared our sixties the cloaks we had wrapped about our essential selves were wearing thin."

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