February 14, 2008

Things fall apart

Few objects are able to convey as much meaning as the human face. Mine is rapidly falling apart, and there seems little I can do to stop the process.

A staple of profiles of dissolute characters is the before and after picture - see what life has done them. And this is usually very stupid, as most often the person in question has just aged at the normal rate, not much worse than their clean living peers. Now I'm not old, only 38 this year, but was much younger once, and looked it. This wave of reflection is prompted each time I look in the mirror, but set off more specifically by a recent photograph of Martin Amis, not known for being dissolute, below:

When I was in high school, 20 years ago, just before the wave of younger, better looking, more American, and therefore more exciting, US brat pack authors hit the UK shelves, Amis was the go-to guy for the novelist as sex god. At the time he was full of roguish charm and promise, London Fields still ahead and looking something like this:

From my perspective this happened in a short time, albeit several lifetimes, but fast enough to be alarming. What state will I be in 20 years later?

This matters not for those occasions when I meet someone from my past - what happened? - because those seem to be entirely theoretical, the chances standing between zero and less than zero. What worries me more is the general, professional halo effect, how looking one way colors everything people feel about me. In part this is a legitimate concern, and in part pure vanity, which I channel into exercise and healthy diet. Of course, the effect goes both ways, and a strong perceived competence or charisma is able to mitigate the effects of physical decline in the eyes of others, but not in one's own.

Anyway, enough posts tagged 'myself'. Copied and pasted last year's Edge question [100 or so scientists, thinkers respond to "What have you changed your mind about?] into a Word document and had it printed and bound for $100NT and am going through for new ideas to trip out on. It can be read online, but if anyone wants it in a more printable form to get away from the screen then email me.

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