Five guys at the lake decide to recreate a photograph of themselves over and over, showing the passage of time [hat tip: Althouse].
I’ve noticed in my own life and among my friends, as well as for public figures, that visible aging doesn’t progress in smooth linear fashion. It advances in fits and starts and discrete bumps.
One year I look around at my friends at the Christmas party and everybody looks pretty darn good. The next year I wonder who all these old folk are. In their thirties and forties the aging process seems so slow and gentle as to be almost stagnant; most people seem to go on and on looking almost like they did in their twenties.
There’s a group who hit the aging wall in their mid-to-late forties, going almost overnight from young to oldish. They’re the canaries in the mine. Another bunch “turn” quite suddenly in their late fifties, with the early sixties a time of particular peril for many.
I think you’ll agree that for the five brave men* who took these photos, there’s a bigger leap between the second-to-last photo (taken in 2007, when they were all around 44), and the last one (taken in 2012, when they were all close to 50) than in the previous five-year gaps. I’ll reproduce just the very first one (1982) and then those last two for comparison:
Ah, but just you wait, guys. It’s the next 10 or 15 that will tell the tale.
The poets tell the tale, too. There’s Andrew Marvell in “To His Coy Mistress“:
But at my back I always hear
Time’s winged chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity…
This one is from a response by Archibald Macleish called “You, Andrew Marvell,” that always gives me the chills:
And here face down beneath the sun
And here upon earth’s noonward height
To feel the always coming on
The always rising of the night:
To feel creep up the curving east
The earthy chill of dusk and slow
Upon those under lands the vast
And ever climbing shadow grow…
(The elipsis is especially apropos, and the poem even ends with one…)
For a lighter and once-quite-popular version of the idea, a poem I was familiar with in my youth:
Time, you old gipsy man,
Will you not stay,
Put up your caravan
Just for one day?
All things I’ll give you
Will you be my guest,
Bells for your jennet
Of silver the best,
Goldsmiths shall beat you
A great golden ring,
Peacocks shall bow to you,
Little boys sing.
Oh, and sweet girls will
Festoon you with may,
Time, you old gipsy,
Why hasten away?…
And still another, by Tennyson:
Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean,
Tears from the depth of some divine despair
Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes,
In looking on the happy Autumn-fields,
And thinking of the days that are no more…
[*Although the men may be brave, they’re not brave enough to keep taking their shirts off, are they?]