Barring an accident involving the MAX light rail here in Portland,* I will turn 34 in two days. It has been a good year. I didnt forsake wordly possessions or become a holy mendicant. I spoke to some fishermen a couple weeks ago but they did not leave their nets and traditional fishing platforms on the Columbia River or follow me. The fishing was that good, or maybe they were there in the first place because their ancestors listened real good to the famous demonstration about what the mouth of a fish contains.
Though I am being facetious here in affecting a Christ complex (really), sometimes I do think about where I am going and why I am here (in Oregon, and not slouching or backpacking to Jerusalem). In Estonia and Europe at least, 33 is a significant age and people up the ante by referring to it as the juudijuubel (Jewish jubilee) and asking you, more or less, what have you done, so you kind of get to thinking and taking stock. WHID? Not enough, certainly.
Not all that many people want to be mortal or at least obscure. I dont know how it is in older folks, but there is still a little conceit lurking in some people up to their early thirties that they may buck the trend and not be 'subject to death', as actuaries say.
There was a time in my life when, if you asked me, Quo vadis, Kristopher Madis, my response might have answered to the description of some sage or wanderer, perhaps like a guy in the wilderness keeping himself as a pure vessel for the spirit, ready to pass it on at the right time. Having a family was not something I expected to do until much later in life, if at all.
Another time I would have answered with the sly words of Jerry Garcia -- When I was just a little young boy, Pappa said son you'll never get far/I'll tell you the reason if you want to know, because child of mine, there really isn't very far to go. It's a wheel, see. A circular path.
I am not religious, and certainly received very little religious exposure growing up. But eventually the powerful cultural memes made their way to me and shaped my understanding.
One image that made a deep impression on me was the Kazantzakis last temptation as depicted by Martin Scorsese -- Jesus dying fantasy of living in a hut with a wife and child, overlaid with the understanding that playing house like that was a horribly wrong abdication of his role. Could the same apply to anyone? Could it really be worth it just to continue the cycle of birth and rebirth and reinvent the wheel instead of having the courage to step out into space, as it were, and do something totally different?
My biggest difficulty with religion was and is seeing the middle road, and so it is with life in general. It seems that either you go all-out and witness 24/7, seeming very weird by conventional standards (the perfect example in Estonia is Ilmar Kesa, who carried a cross on the trams and buses of Tallinn for years: people who do that and are not mentally ill have all but disappeared in the US ). The other choice to my mind is that you just live a normal conformist, but then you don't talk about religion either.
Aside from the joys of parenthood, I have to say that reaching 34 -- without finding myself on a high windy hill pecked by crows, surrounded by the cold eyes of thousands of people -- is a blessing, and that is how I will take it. (Though the plan is to climb South Sister on Tuesday the 18th, which is a mountain.)
In some ways 34 is the final end of the conceits of childhood. The road is chosen. From here on, if I forsake possessions or make any abrupt shift, it will be called something else: mid life crisis. Though true aging is still a year or couple away, the final accceptance has been given of the fact that I am just a mortal.
Slowly the giving back will have to start. Maybe by actions like paying myself more of a salary (and thus Estonian social tax) and not just living off dividends like a high roller. Maybe tithing 10% (a page from Christian doctrine, but one I always liked).
But this isn't New Year's, so no resolutions yet.
* There is a guy in a Nabokov short story who is convinced he will die at Jesus' age and is killed, by streetcar. Characters in Russian literature are always getting run over by trams -- Master and Margarita, etc.