In the novel I’m reading – & Sons by David Gilbert – I just read these words: “though time unarticulated was the truer subject.” Like a moth to the flame I have to check the internet to see if Roger Federer won his second round match at the Brisbane International tennis tournament – to see how victory or defeat will articulate his and my life.
Ah, relief. Though the competition (fellow 32 year-old Jarkko Niemenen) was someone I’ve never heard of, my heart beats faster at the thought that Roger’s deflating 2013 season might have been just a bad dream, and that 2014, with a new coach (Stefan Edberg, who seemed surprised to be asked) and a new racquet (the same 98-inch racquet head he tried last summer after his early Wimbledon defeat) will push aside the sinister suggestion that age afflicts even the great.
Strange that one confers an almost ageless maturity to athletes younger than oneself. Roger Federer is 32 years old, and the word “retirement” hounds him wherever he goes. Yet through the miracle of endless YouTube videos, he can remain ageless, and for a few months or perhaps even years, will continue to inspire me by personifying the kind of tennis player that I, if I had merely 50 times the athletic gifts I actually possess, could have been.
As regards the business of aging, I’m in the right business – the conducting business – where age is not such an impediment. Blanche Moyse, with whom I briefly studied in 1974, had her “glory years” as a conductor when she was in her 70s and 80s. And just yesterday I came across this YouTube video of Kurt Sanderling looking great on the podium at 98.
So why do I die a thousand deaths over Roger Federer’s gracefully diminishing ability to play competitive tennis as only teenagers and 20-somethings can? Each age has its set of concrete experiences that cannot be re-experienced, only remembered, and though we wish yearn for “time unarticulated,” we cannot resist the pain of marking time.