The End of Days: a playlist for troubled times

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Where Have all the good times gone?

The earth died screaming

Armageddon ready for the last roundup is the old clichéd joke that springs to my mind as we overheat and poison our planet and send ourselves rushing headlong towards oblivion. The rise of pandemics; the cancerous growth of populist dictatorships; the collapse of human decency and social order, with people actually fighting over toilet rolls and stealing hand-wash from hospitals in times of pointless panic-buying, are all portents of calamity. As the world closes in on us all, I wonder how best to count my days. This sums it all up really. We are well on the way to the end of days.

What’s he building in there?

Tom Waits wrote about a neighbour who was surely up to no good. He kept himself from view as he did unspoken nefarious things away from the glare of publicity – always behind closed doors. Incidentally, he had enough formaldehyde secreted under his sink to choke a horse. Clearly a force for evil.

As poverty increases, the rich get richer, and our world goes to hell in a Hancock, I wonder what plans are being hatched inside No. 10 Downing Street. What depressing futures are being planned for us all under the guise of “Getting it done”? What does Johnson have stashed under his sink?

Midnight, one more night without sleeping

Personally, I guess I shouldn’t be all that bothered because my midnight is rapidly approaching, and my days are getting shorter. However, I am increasingly considering how to make them count, rather than just counting them, and at the same time, I just can’t shake the feeling that dark secrets lurk behind that polished front door.

As time goes by…

…inexorably, but why does it go so damn quickly?

We must have all have heard the rationale for the apparent speeding-up of passing years, based upon each year representing a smaller proportion of the life we have already lived. You know: one year to a five year-old seems like a really long time, because it represents one fifth of its lifetime; whereas a single year to, say, a forty-one year old is neither here nor there. Well, this leads into the next title…

Don’t stop me now (I’m having a good time)

…or at least it’s better than the alternative.

I have recently noticed increasing numbers of deaths of people in my circle that were many years my junior, and I reckon, that as I have been lucky enough to hang on to some of my marbles and still be kicking around, I should be looking at some kind of reboot. So, I’ve been giving it a bit of thought. Basically, as The Small Faces said in 1966, What’cha Gonna Do About It?

First of all, how about trying to treat every year as being as significant as it is to an infant? The only difference being that the whole thing would need to be inverted. In my model, each year represents an increasingly significant proportion of the time any of us might have left. This approach values each year more than the last and has the added spice of us generally having no real idea of the end point, or of our manner of going for that matter.

So, I have thought about how I can maximise the worth of my later years. As I suggested earlier, I have been reminded a number of times recently that death is part of our natural life cycle, and it strikes me that the only proper way to view it is to accept its inevitability with as much dignity as I can muster. Now that doesn’t mean going gentle into that good night. It just means accepting the situation, making the most of it, and if rage is your thing, feeling free to exercise it.

Passionless, pointless

There’s no real point in the pursuit of added days if they are to be pointless, maybe painful, perhaps at the mercy of some undervalued unfortunate who has no option but to try to make ends meet by wiping arses and looking after those of us who can no longer do it for ourselves.

Where’s the value in that?

Fine, if you have a goal, someone you want to care for, something you really want to achieve, accomplish, or finish off properly; if you need to make amends for something, then that will give a purpose to trying to hang around, hoping to “get it done” as some pompous prat once said. Fate may well polish you off before you finish the job but there’s not a lot you can do about that. Maybe you just want to make some broader contribution to the sum of human happiness or drink yourself to death. You choose.

So, saddle up and hit whatever trail suits you, even if it turns out to be the road to hell, to use a couple of very well worn, but reasonably appropriate, clichés.

F**K you

Maybe our years of decline should be just that: Our years, not anyone else’s. Decline or not, we can own them and do with them what we will.

I’ve been reading “The subtle art of not giving a F*ck” and it chimes with quite a lot of my thoughts. It argues that there are, and should be, quite a lot of things that you really do give a fuck about, but these should be focussed and prioritised to suit you: to suit your basic values; to suit what really matters to you. All the rest is just baggage, and anyone who has ever travelled anywhere knows what a pain that can be. I heard a guard on London’s DLR making an announcement as we approached City Airport one morning asking everyone to ensure that they took all their baggage with them. Now there was nothing special about that, but he followed it up with an offer to make an exception for emotional baggage, which he was happy to look after until folk returned from their holidays. It lightened everyone’s morning and somehow goes to show how much “free” stuff like good humour can be worth. Let’s face it, as a bloke, anything that helps to keep your pecker up as you get older has to be a good thing.

The book argues that a crucial first step is to work out what really does matter to each of us, and that seems pretty sensible to me. Anyway, I reckon, particularly as I get older, that I just can’t afford to waste my precious time and energy giving a fuck about things that really don’t matter much to me.

So, my advice is that you’d better get on with it ‘cos there ain’t much time. I’d argue that it really doesn’t matter what you decide to focus on as long as it is what you want and not something that you are being pushed into.

Running on empty

The older I get the more I realise that there is not much fuel left in the tank . In fact, I sometimes think I am only running on an oily rag! The Laws of Conservation of Energy may seem great in physics, but they just don’t apply to my circumstances. If I get riled up by every Tom, Dick or Mary, and the daft things they do, I’ll just run out of juice a bit sooner. So, when people piss me off – I should either confront them there and then, because it is important to me – not to them, or write them off as idiots or arseholes and move on. The odds are that I am not going to change them so what the fuck? Do I really have time to waste on St Jude and his lost causes?

Into each life a little rain must fall

So, when I see those terribly clumsy ads on TV encouraging us all to “put a little bit by” for the end of our days, to give ourselves a decent send off and so on; when I see the simpering excuses for actors that they use; F**K You comes to mind again. Do you really care if you end up in some kind of municipal cremation facility with no ceremony, or will you be happy enough being rendered unannounced into the cold, cold, ground? Maybe we just feel that we have to accept that our manner of passing has more to do with the wishes and feelings of others, rather than ourselves. What matters to you?

Do we really want to try to save for a rainy day? Be smart. If you pick your time right and look out of the window, it’ll be chucking it down. Job Done!

Money, money, money

Surely the idea of some kind of inheritance for our children is just pie in the sky for many of us. Of course, the modestly well off and upwards can afford to agonise over how to make their garden grow – with silver bells (and whistles) if they like, but for many people, just getting through to the end of the week is hard enough. So, take a sensible look at yourself, your position, and make some choices about what works for you. If your family would rather that you struggled through each week in the sad pursuit of putting a little bit by for them when you are gone, instead of getting yourself the odd small pleasure that would make your limited time that bit more bearable, well maybe you should talk to them about it.

As the End of our Days approach let’s own them. Be graceful or disgraceful, cram for your finals in the hope of eternal life, or accept that the time for deferred satisfaction is gone, demonstrate or remonstrate, but exercise what powers you have and don’t just be bored to death if you can help it.

Go on enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think!

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