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Monday, 30 November 2009

Mornings After

Millennia ago I was cox of an VIII that swept all before it (occasionally literally, thanks to my "get out of my way or die" attitude). At the end of the season we won the national championships, pocketed the Maadi Cup (half the crew, with another cox, pocketed the Springbok Shield, too, a rare double), and lapsed into oblivion. There was, perhaps fortunately, no opportunity for wild parties, for the race was won on our home course, our school operated a strict curfew, and we were in bed, nearly sober, by 10.00 p.m.

I was an atheist at the time. The next morning the universe was an empty, cold place. My coxing career had lasted five seasons, and was over. Over on a high note, but over. I had returned for a fifth year of high school only to cox: I had done so, and it was done. Finished. Over. Seven more months of meaningless existence at school, perhaps, for all I knew, seven more decades of meaningless existence on the surface of an irrelevant globe floating around a meaningless sun in a meaningless galaxy in a near-empty sea of nothingness: it wasn't a cheerful morning. Even without a hangover.

Gradually I dragged myself into some sort of being. Ennui ruled, but the alternatives, thank the non-existent god, were less attractive. I stumbled on, setting myself the modest goal of becoming the first 1st VIII cox, at least in my memory, to become a school prefect. I failed. I failed too, therefore, to become the first cox to become a prefect to become James K. Baxter or T.S. Eliot. Oh well.

More than three decades later it doesn't matter terribly much. Endings of eras are less interesting, solipsism less of a key by which to interpret the universe. Yesterday, after a journey of more than ten years, I finally received notification that I have been awarded a PhD. There was no curfew in operation, but I couldn't be bothered partying. I watered my garden (a rare event), mused that I would like to send a hug to the Creator and Sustainer of life, energy and nonchalant thesis writers, and drove to an appointment two or three hours away.

The universe remained unshaken, but on the other hand it seemed a whole lot more full of meaning and purpose than it had 32 years before. Tomorrow would be another day, full of the same meaning and purpose as yesterday. Maybe it's middle age (late middle age, according to the Seven Ages of Man), or maybe it's the faith that snuck up on me a few years after I pocketed my share of the Maadi Cup, but it all seemed rather routine.

A nice moment in a routine, though, for sure. Doctor Godfrey: it has a satisfying ring to it. I shall water my garden with new panache, I'm sure.
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