I went to a writing workshop today, run in conjunction with an exhibition at the British Museum called Ice Age Art: Arrival of the Modern Mind. We spent some time looking at the exhibits and absorbing the atmosphere of life in Europe 10 – 40,000 years ago. Then we were invited to write something in response to what we had seen.
I was really struck by the remains of the earliest known puppet/doll – shown in the picture above – and this is what I wrote.
I am the Tellerman. I speak to all things. They speak to me. This is how they speak: I hold Man on my knee. He moves. His arms and legs move. No-one else has a Man. I made him a long time ago. I had a picture of him in my head and I made him: Man, his arms and legs moving on my knee. I hear him speak. He moves. He looks. He knows what all things speak (“large” and “small”, “long fur”, “great tooth”, and “good to eat”).
He walks on my knee. I bend down so he can speak in my ear. I listen to what he says to me: “Hunt – stay home – danger – plenty.” I tell the people. I am their voice. I am their ears. Man is silent during the day. He only speaks at night when the fires are lit. Sometimes Man leaps off my knee and grows big. He jumps onto the wall of the cave. He hunts and he fights. Sometimes he says nothing. He sleeps.
If the people give us food, he tells stories. He knows many stories. He speaks them into my ear and I tell them, He dances on my knee; he jumps onto the wall of the cave. He hunts and he fights.
It is a fabulous exhibition. Do see it if you can. Write something and post it in reply!
No, the picture is not me. It’s Billy Connolly (although he does seem to be wearing my glasses). I chose it because I’ve been thinking about where I am in this whole elder thing and I recently saw a DVD of Billy’s Too Old to Die Young tour of New Zealand. It was made a few years ago when he was about the same age as I am now (63) and I think the title says it all.
Like Billy in 2004, I’m certainly not young – I’m no longer even middle aged – but neither am I entering my dotage. I am however, “too old to die young”, at least by the standards of Radio 4’s obituary program Last Word which (another sign of my age perhaps) I enjoy listening to. Not once have I heard the presenter Matthew Bannister declare that the life of the deceased (aged 63) was tragically cut short. Three score years and twelve may be a biblical underestimate of what constitutes a full innings these days but 60 something does seem to be considered a reasonable whack. Hmmm.
I guess I’m still caught somewhere in that awkward age between adolescence and death. For a while at least, I’m going to stop worrying about what it means (or might mean) to be an elder, accept the fact that life and death are both pretty unpredictable, and concentrate on living my life as fully as I can and on enjoying it moment by moment.
Incidentally, I really like the way Billy Connolly (now 70) seems to be expressing a richer, more generative and inclusive relationship with the world through his recent travel/performance documentaries: he’s ageing well, growing into a more well-rounded and – to me at least – more interesting person.
Thanks for your inspiration and example, Billy.
[ Reposted from: http://www.elderflowering.org ]