The age of infant
The child was born when the child was young, but the world was old. It had existed for billions of years without that child – or that tribe – or that species – or life itself.
The child was born into the teeming billions of the world, a blank slate to be written as anyone, with just the basic bios to get it started into existence, before being influenced by everything and everyone surrounding it.
Would it live to grow into adulthood, outlive childish diseases?
Would it be a subsistence farmer, just managing to scratch a living from the poor soil of the available fields?
Would it be a wealthy industrial leader with material riches to command, enjoy and waste?
Why the difference?
The age of boyhood
The boy is waiting for his birthday, looking forward into the unknown future of his age of man, not knowing in which land it lies with its infinite branching possibilities.
He does not know that his future is fixed, just waiting for him to follow that one critical path.
He does not know that the arrow of time does not move. It is a pointer to show when he is and time flows around him to coalesce behind to form his passed times and add pages to the history book of his life.
He is unsure about everything. He knows nothing, but he knows that he knows everything.
How can it be otherwise in a teenaging boy?
The age of education
The boy leaves home. He leaves his family’s supervision and safety as he joins a University and indulges in manly things. He gets drunk, stoned, catches unknowable diseases but goes home as a child for free food, washing and sleep.
He learns enough of the course to get by. He learns enough of life to grow up, hidden from his parents.
He thinks he understands life and rails through the drunken nights with his peers against the unfairness. He grows up some more.
He learns to compete; he learns that the world does not care if he is there or not.
Now he has grown enough to accept the inevitable unfairness of the world. He turns to the matters of a man and accepts responsibility for himself.
The age of family and work
The man leaves education, finds work. He auctions his strength of body or mind to the highest bidder. He learns his trade, labourer or lawyer, both the same – different bushels of corn for different work. He gains experience, struggles and competes, spends his money on the family that he has gathered around him.
His children grow, needing him each day, competition between work and family. One day they need him not, leave home; but still need money, and so it goes, the circle of life.
Children distant, nest too big, time for a bungalow? ‘No stairs.’
The age of maturity
His age is but a twentieth of a millennium, the mountain is four million times older, a Variscan G G G G…Great Grandfather.
He clawed his way up the foothills of the corporate mountain range until he reached the sunlit uplands of calm acceptance. No more promotion, just the casual fending off of upstart youngsters who would dislodge him from his upland summer pasture.
He waits for his pension, happy not to strive but to graze efficiently with minimum effort, until he leaves the threshing floor at the five of each day to return to his dependable family.
Now he can pass on his knowledge and experience, but no one wants it. They all need to learn for themselves, no short cuts.
The age of age
The man is old, but not old as the mountain knows old, the mountain that he can see with his one good, though rheumy eye.
He is on his own, but content. He looks to the many years behind
His back is bent in a way that only a wind resisting tree knows and his skin is barked like that same tree, events of the many years embossed on the lignin.
His walking stick is cut from that very oak; unfair as he does not care to prop up the supplicating sapling that bows before the lazy wind.
Is there enough wood grown yet to form his coffin so that he can lie restfully, peacefully in the scarlet satin lining?
The age of rebirth
Life leaves the man, his corporeal skeleton is boxed and fed back into the Earth to be chemicalised into minerals, metamorphosed and subducted into the mantle.
The life of the man is but a tiny, unseen ripple in the fabric of the universe.
After many billions of years, the Earth is engulfed in the heat of the super nova Sun. Man has long escaped to new systems. The materials that were the man stay behind.
The following inevitable, gravity – driven accretion will see him reborn as part of the star dust that forms a new system.
The universe continues; indifferent, wheeling, expanding.
It knows nothing of the man; an atom is an atom, to be used to build new worlds, no matter whence it came, from peasant, rich man, granite or mud.
Richard Kefford joined the Royal Navy from school, followed this with an engineering career. He studied geology and creative writing with the Open University since 2008.
Richard lives in Somerset, where he enjoys wood turning, hill walking, practical geology and writing.
Photograph courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net