Age and the balanced personality

Tales from a Brussels bar

Tales from a Brussels barI was joshing with my old mate Maj last night – we were exchanging news and solving the problems of the world. And he started getting philosophical. Don’t get me wrong. Philosophy and the deeper state of being are not something we normally get up to while seated at the bar. Probably there was a lull in the football …

So, while we were delving into concepts deeper than Real Madrid’s thrashing of Barcelona, he came out with a few statements that I thought were pretty inspiring … well … compared to our normal level of discussion anyway.

We’d just been talking to an attractive young Greek woman, and after she left with the inevitable boyfriend, we had to convince ourselves that there are some benefits to no longer being able to attract the brilliant and beautiful (of which there seem to be so many).

“What are the advantages of being older,” he asked. Uh huh, I thought, the rhetorical question. A bad sign. Well, he said, “for one you’ve had time to develop a more balanced personality.”

“Imagine what you were like at that age,” he continued. I’d rather not, I thought, remembering some of the more outlandish escapades of my youth. But Maj was in flow and not to be stopped.

“How do you tell the mature personality,” he demanded, waving his finger in the air. The need to soak up more beer before things get rosy, I thought, glumly.

“Being able to listen more rather than just talk, is one sign,” he said, “as is offering the well-reflected thought that is worth sharing.” At that he paused and raised his glass pensively, examining the colour of his beer.

“When a man has so much more to say but is less inclined to say it,” he continued, “then you give more weight to his words.”

That sounds quite profound, I thought, half watching a Barcelona striker being shown the yellow card.

“And you become more resistant to the blandishments of the female sex,” he said. “Once you’ve been round the block a few times, you get to recognise the difference between what hits you between the eyes and what you know is good for you long term.”

That’s certainly true, I reflected, thinking of the numerous city blocks I’d walked around over the years while hoping a certain someone might show up.

“But the most important thing of all,” he said, “is you get to know yourself. You find out what you’re good at and what you’re not – and you stop letting the rest bother you.”

He was settling into his stride now. “After all, life isn’t an assault course,” he said. “Basically we’re on this earth for a short time to do we know not what, so we can at least try to enjoy some of it while we’re here!”

Truly profound, I thought, realising that there was no stopping him now. I’d have to give up on the football. But for the life of me I couldn’t think of anything intelligent to say.

Maj signalled to Tam the barman, about to order another round, when his mobile rang. Saved, I thought, and began to make obvious signs of preparing to leave while he was distracted. Otherwise, I thought, we could be in for a long night.

“That was Nita,” he said eventually, after finishing the call from his wife. I’ve got to go … she’s cooking tonight and I’d totally forgotten about it.”

I offered my commiserations, he donned hat and gloves, and headed off out into the snow. I breathed a sigh of relief, settled back into my seat and waved to Tam for another beer. The football was still going.

Sipping gently, I thought about the essential rightness of Maj’s remarks. He certainly had a knack for getting to the root of the matter. But being a reflective soul by nature, I wasn’t about to share that with him …

© Philip Hunt, 2010.

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