Thursday, February 12, 2009

Exit Ghost, by Philip Roth

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Right now, my generation is on top of the world. We are at that age when everything is still possible. Most of our formal education is now behind us, and we can hope that most of our successes are still ahead of us. We (well, some of us) are finding jobs and making real money, we (well, I hope most of us) are discovering our dreams. We've elected a president of the United States who feels like our president. We are finally adults - involved in real adult-like relationships, being called "ma'am" or "sir" in restaurants, legally drinking alcohol in most countries. And perhaps the best part of all is that no one can take all this away from us.

Man, it's great.

But since we've got all the time in the world - and why not? - there's no rush to grab hold of any of that. We can master Guitar Hero instead of the guitar. We can swing through McDonald's instead of learning to cook. We can relax with an old friend, a new friend, a book, a day in the mountains some other weekend, 'cause even though that party has all the same people that were there last time, it's gonna rock, man, so we've got to go.

Maybe no one can take all this away from us, but something can. We don't think about how time is no longer creeping up on us, but running on padded feet through the undergrowth. It can make all the noise it wants, now, because we won't even hear it.

Remember when spring break was a long vacation, and that month before Christmas lasted ages? Well, it doesn't go so slowly any more. And before we've done anything with the time we have standing atop the world's oyster, we'll be sliding down its slippery shell, our foothold weakened by the gradual loss of our potential. Our bladders will stop working. We will lose our fertility and our virility. We won't remember friend's birthdays, or what we just said on the phone ten minutes ago.

And, man, that won't be so great at all.


  1. We're gonna be reading a Philip Roth book in my Jewish Lit class, so that's kinda interesting.

    I think that while our generation has all those advantages, we also have the disadvantage of being ruled by the clock, we constantly have somewhere to go, something to do, someone to see, and no time to just go outside and stare at a rock or something.

  2. Hmm, so what are we going to do about it?

  3. Sadly, I don't know if there's anything _we_ can do about it, but I believe each of us can make individual choices to slow our lives down, to stop putting off 'til the future what we are able to accomplish now.

    The powers of youth we have now (and by "youth" I mean not yet being terribly affected by the loss of powers both mental and physical that necessarily come with old age) are, of course, temporary, and while I don't believe it was Roth's message, the book made me re-realize that we've got to take advantage of these faculties while we have them, without the cockiness of perceived invincibility that comes with youth preventing us from realizing that we're on a timetable of sorts.

    I don't want to sound like an on-stage motivational speaker, but you know all those "carpe diem"-type lines. Maybe there's something to them.

  4. there's a reason i shouldn't read blogs at work: when i read "our bladders will stop working," i burst out laughing...and was scowled at by my supervisor. oops...

  5. I think there is something to carpe diem.
    Actually I suffer from chronic fatigue - if I do not seize the day once in a while and decide to do some of the things I really want to, my days seem to disappear without me even noticing it.