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We would venture to say that this is the first article on
"geezerhood" written from a philosophical perspective. Leave it to a physicist
to relate this singularly male phenomenon to state changes in physical systems.
For those of you (the vast majority) who are pre-geezer , read on; your time
will come. For those of you who have reached this enviable state, prepare for
some validation. And for those of you who reject the geezerhood concept and are
from the "it'll never happen to me" school, think of yourself falling down a
deep well, suddenly sprouting wings, reversing course and exiting the well into
the bright sunlight - a comforting thought though decidedly beyond the realm of
From the youngest to the oldest we are all on a journey; the signpost up ahead....
Mervyn Long holds a doctorate in metallurgical physics. He has been a professor, headed an electronics company and spent a few unsettling years as a holographer. He is very English and has been accused of reading everything that P.G. Wodehouse ever wrote.
I have attained Geezerhood. You will, too, unless you're an advocate and practitioner of the "Live Hard, Die Young and Leave a Good-Looking Body" school. Or, a phase-change takes place in your life.
Nasty things, phase changes. Unpredictable, as I'll get into in a minute.
Geezerhood ain't so great either.
In fact, one inevitable manifestation of Geezerhood in full flower - the end game, so to speak - is disguised by glowing euphemisms which are downright lies, like "Golden Age." But the game often starts, as Dr. Gary Fisher points out, when the attractive young woman whom you are (you think) entrancing with your wit, wisdom and overwhelming charisma, calls you "sir." It evolves through hair growing out of your ears, through dinner parties where the colon is the favored topic and then it races on to the seduction of two bucks off the price of a carwash, as a perceived "senior".
But, since you, out there, almost without exception, are nowhere near achieving Geezerhood, why do I raise the subject? Immortality, for me, by planting in your minds the reflex that in the far future, as you reel from the shock when for the very first time, some youngling offers you a "senior discount", YOU WILL REMEMBER READING THIS, HERE!! The hook is set. Nothing you can do about it.
On to phase changes, and the really cool way (Lawdy, that word "cool" - back to the Beat Generation and Johnny Staccato hanging out at the Progressive Jazz dives in the Village) they screw everything up. Especially Futurism. Scientific research, and Futurism, often involve the extrapolation of a trend. The Hubbell constant (which turns out to be 'round about 42, as was the answer to the Meaning of Life question posed in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy) has to do with the rate at which the Universe is expanding. By back-tracking, one attempts to gain knowledge of our origins, and by the reverse, see where the hell we're going.
Now consider: we know what happens to the characteristics of water when we raise its temperature from, say 20°C to 40°C. And from 40°C to 60°C. It seems reasonable to extend this to projecting what the characteristics of water will be at 110°C, but at 100°C water goes through a phase change from liquid to gas (steam) and a whole brand new set of characteristics take over. Similarly, reducing the temperature of water brings about another phase change at 0°C when the liquid becomes solid (ice).
Now, everyone knows this about water. No big deal. But, if you would assume a kindly and generous disposition for a moment or so, look at things from the ice cube's point of view. If its temperature rises above 0°C, the phase change to water occurs and completely alters the basis upon which it goes about its daily doings. One moment its there, diamond-like, strong, glittering and proud of it, and the next, its running off the coffee table like a real wimp. If it carries on trying to relate to the world as an ice cube, it just ain't going to work.
Futurists hate phase changes because they obviously feel a bit thick standing there with celestial egg on their faces. Imagine if you will, a Futurist dinosaur - one of the really big, maxi-cube buggers. Being a huge dinosaur seems to him to be a pretty secure trade, until a rather large comet raps Earth up the side of the face, and there's a phase change. You see, they're sort of unpredictable. When a phase change occurs, all bets are off. In fact no one knows what the bet's about anymore. All reference terms become obsolete. Nothing is as it was.
If the Big Bang idea of creation has any merit, that's pretty dramatic, even as phase changes go.
On a personal phase change level, death sort of gets your attention. A total loss of memory has its challenges. An involuntary, spontaneous sex change would be a time to think about phases.... wake up to find that you are now one of them. And so on. The possibilities regarding their timing or nature are infinite. Literally.
What I'm suggesting here, is to make the idea of phase changes part of an outlook, a philosophy of life. An awareness that they can occur, in my opinion at least, helps one cope with the new situation. To recognize that it's time to look at everything in a totally new way, rather than drag the old concepts along which, since they no longer work, are a great hindrance and can even be dangerous. This may even help to cure bigotry, but realistically, even the spontaneous sex change is more likely to occur.
But, I'm a Geezer and who listens to Geezers? True Geezerhood is when you have all the answers, but you're no longer asked the questions. But you do get that two bucks off the price of a car wash, so life's not all that bad, is it?
© 1998 Mervyn Long
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