The Vale of Tears

Life is referred to as a “vale of tears” for a reason. Even in these times I often find myself standing awestruck as I witness humanity’s ability and willingness to persevere as daily life metes out one disappointment after another. Certainly for some these are minor matters- a promotion denied, an opportunity lost, a relationship ended. For others it is more rending and visceral- oppression, starvation, disease, and death. Yet human beings stride ever onward, indomitable in the pursuit of something better than what life offers for them today.

It is this aspect of humanity that makes me optimistic regarding the future of the race. In my unique situation I can hold any circumstance to be temporary. My life has already been unimaginably long and so far as I know it shall continue to be so. I can afford patience. I routinely defer my aspirations. How a person who can at best expect ten short decades to live a full life can then present that same sort of patience is often beyond my capacity to internalize. My perspective is too skewed, meaning that while I accept it and understand it at the intellectual level it remains one of the aspects of humanity with which I have great difficulty empathizing.

I suppose this is my loss. One major difference between myself and all those about me that I have noticed is my singular lack of creativity. Those things I do well are the result of immense amounts of practice, but originality has never been my strong suit. It has occurred to me on more than one occasion that this is likely the price I pay for such a long life. It is an idea that has even been broached by writers of fiction, who often have an innate understanding of things I have learned only through long experience. My approach to difficulties consists mostly of plodding doggedly forward- perhaps the closest I come personally to the hope that sustains others.

Do not infer that this saddens me. Truth to be told I am a particularly unemotional person and I am content to be so. On the rare occasions where my emotions overrule my sense I usually end up married or in prison, and the last time it happened it took me nearly a month to dispose of all the bodies. All in all, better for everyone that I remain dispassionate.

3 Responses to “The Vale of Tears”

  1. I am looking 50 in the eye and I’ve noticed that life seems much slower now than when I was 20. My flame does not burn as bright but it is much steadier.

    I did not expect to make it past 17 so everything since then has been gravy and I savor it all the more because of that.

    Most of the excitement of my youth was inspired by the stupid mistakes I made (it wasn’t until I was thirty that I could discern between “Stand up” and “Shut up”) and I tend to make mistakes no more than three times each. With most of the stupid errors done and those lessons learned, the things I botch today are more subtle. Subtle screwups tend to be a lot less thrilling.

    So I, for one, am happy settling into the gray of my own twilight years. I’m enjoying the rest.

    It would be a bitch to find this is only the beginning, that I have centuries yet to go. I already find myself thinking, “Shit, if I had known I was gonna live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.”

  2. An interesting comment, and a thought I have encountered numerous times in the past. It forms the core of the aphorism “youth is wasted upon the young.”

    I can also empathize- I noted earlier that I was not terribly bright in my early years. I lived nearly five hundred years before I accepted that I was fundamentally different from others. Even then I made mistakes, the kind that often required me to claw my way out of a shallow grave once darkness fell. I look back on those times now and I wonder how I could ever have been so foolish. Fortunately for me I do not carry the physical burden of past errors.

  3. The above comments were first posted on 01/18/2003 and 01/19/2003, respectively, before being moved here.