Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Fossil fools

Men at forty
Learn to close softly
The doors to rooms they will not be
Coming back to.

We all know them. The unfortunate among us meet them everyday. In offices, on the roads, in the queue standing before us. Even misanthropes who are social media addicts meet them online. There is no escaping them. Like cockroaches hiding in old, decayed woodwork we know they are there even when we can’t see them. The fossil fools. In the corporate world they are known as ‘middle management’. And everywhere else as those middle-aged men.

They have achieved a level of mediocrity– comforting and self-sustaining. Even though they may not rise any higher up in life, they know, as they occupy the ‘middle’, that those on their way up will have to go past them. And the rest will soon join them. So they are comforted. Somehow this makes them more than a little proud of themselves.

Due to the above-mentioned advantage they build an entourage consisting of other “middle men” and juniors who in a few years time will morph into them. The accolade from juniors flatters them. The support of others like them empowers them.

But their life is not without its unique pitfalls. For how long can these fossil fools last? The wheels of progress won’t grind to a halt just because they have achieved the pinnacle of their mediocrity. There will always be smarter, bolder and more efficient ideas waiting to take over. What do they do then?

Thus begins the vicious battle unimaginatively called ‘defend the turf”. The motto being– he who blows his trumpet the loudest wins, never mind if he is out of tune and giving everyone a headache. Ruthless missions are launched to shore up large ‘followings’. Every bit of mediocrity is not only applauded but also richly awarded. Every little spark that threatens to burn down the entrenchments is mercilessly rubbed out. All middle men combine forces and they are out to take prisoners. Those unwilling to tow the line are ignored. For what one isn’t aware of, doesn’t exist. If one can’t see it, surely nobody else can. So says the cat among the pigeons as it closes its eyes.

Watching these desperate attempts to perpetuate mediocrity, we should raise our fists in anger and howl. Instead we gently shake our heads and whisper,

Men at forty
Learn to close softly
The doors to rooms they will not be
Coming back to.

At rest on a stair landing,
They feel it moving
Beneath them now like the deck of a ship,
Though the swell is gentle.

And deep in mirrors
They rediscover
The face of the boy as he practices tying
His father’s tie there in secret,

And the face of that father,
Still warm with the mystery of lather.
They are more fathers than sons themselves now.
Something is filling them, something

That is like the twilight sound
Of the crickets, immense,
Filling the woods at the foot of the slope
Behind their mortgaged houses.

–Men at forty by Donald Justice


blogaloorgirl said...

very well written and I perfectly agree... I have recently rebelled against a 'comforting and self sustaining'corporate job with zero challenges.

Anonymous said...

oh anvita, it was so perfect and precise.

"Those unwilling to tow the line are ignored. For what one isn’t aware of, doesn’t exist."

These lines summed up so much so beautifully. :-)

I didn't get the last two parahs of donald's poem... will you help me a bit when you are free.

And I had this thought yesterday night, after I first read this post... I may end up mediocre, but I sincerely pray I keep the doors open.

I may not... I'm a woman. :P
w.s. :-)

Anonymous said...

I meant, I may... not as hopeless as a man marking his turf.
oh, I'm such a bug.
w.s. :-)

Anvita Lakhera said...

@blogaloorgirl great going :)) Good luck with whatever you choose to do. Thanks for stopping by.

@w.s. I am sure you will be anything but mediocre. Even though there are some doors we all have to close irrespective of our gender. Middle age does come to women too (though most will not admit it :)).

Best to let a poem revel its meaning to you as we all understand things in our own special way. I'll just say that Donald Justice is talking about the one thing which everyone has to inevitably come to terms with– aging. And the "something" that fills us all as we move one day closer to it despair, is it regret, is it fear...we shall find out someday. Me sooner than you :D