I am reading Sebastian Faulks novel ‘Human Traces’, a fascinating story of two friends who as psychiatric doctors explore the human mind and treat mental illness. One of them, Thomas, says to a medical colleague, ‘there are mysteries which no man can know. But there is something of Don Quixote in me, I suppose. When I see a windmill, I will take my lance and saddle up. I dread getting older because one day I will think that I can no longer be bothered.’
My mother, in her latter years could no longer cope with watching the news on TV, it was too persistently trivial or tragic and in both cases caused her an anxiety she was unable to assuage by any sort of response or action. Now near to her age, I can understand how she felt. There are times when anyone, and not just older people, have to switch off or ignore the media because we find it too distressing, or we can’t keep up with modern discoveries because its all too complicated. But it’s important to reconnect, and I hope I will always want to do that, and be able to.
Continuing to bother about things means, I hope, that you haven’t got lost in a closed world of your own, that you haven’t mentally resigned from life but are in touch with the human condition which, though sometimes wonderful, sometimes fascinating, is often unspeakably awful. It becomes almost unbearable to remain aware of the world around us and especially when there is so little we can do about the pain, distress, and downright wickedness that surrounds us. People of faith pray about it, from our limited resources we can send money to charities that relieve suffering, there are campaigns to join which fight injustice. If only we could do more.
I find it infinitely sad that human beings still seem unable to live in peace and justice, and shameful too that new knowledge is used for private gain rather than the common good.
I am not a masochist. I would like to blot it all out of my mind and learn to stop caring. But that would be a denial of my humanity and an escape which leads to nowhere but to my lonely self. So I think the ‘bothering’ has to continue, however old I get.
Not bothering could be a worse dread than old age itself.