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After the Golden Age by Alvin Schwartz
Giving a glimpse into the formative years of comics and beyond.

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AFTER THE GOLDEN AGE for 04/05/2004
Volume 2, #119

Old Age--It's Really Quite a Place!

A lot of us who were once big names in comics are now experiencing old age. Not all of us, mind you. There were quite a few among us who never got that far. But it strikes me as strange that, among those of us who've made it into the late eighties and beyond, very few ever talk about it. All right, some don't want to face it. Some are too sick to want to mention it, But many of us are pretty hale and certainly ought to have a lot to say about this late stage of life. The fact is that I'm only just discovering it. I mean, sure, I knew that I was getting up there, but it wasn't until I hit eighty-seven last November that the realization struck me, hey, man, I'm getting old.

On top of that, a couple of my multitudes of cousins got involved in a genealogical family research project and the lists of those who passed away and those still around keep growing. The latter, of course, are in different stages of clinging to the conditions of mortality, some still in the best of health, others fighting a losing battle and others, like myself, making marvelous discoveries about life's continuities and mysteries.

As a kid, I used to be scared of dying. I used to think about it a lot, especially at night. I still recall the night terrors when my screams would bring my mother racing into my bedroom. Up until I was about ten, I'd say. After that, I was too busy growing to think about it. I went to school and majored in philosophy, of all things. Which also led me to investigate religion and mortality through sharing what the best had to say about them. For a long time, I thought I could find it in the opposite sex. But that turned out to be no better than going to a movie I'd made up about myself where, for lack of any certainty, I made a pretense of being whatever I was at the time. Go descramble that one, if you like, but you know what I mean. I'm sure.

I went through quite a series of changes in attitude, testing out various religious ideas, reading the greatest religious philosophers, utilizing various methods to come to closer grips with the mystery of what lay beyond. We all do in some way. But for me, it was part of my daily life. Part of what I do as a writer. There were all those years in comics that enabled me to keep alive at a time when so many others were having a hard time. But if Superheroes meant anything to me at all, it was the way in which they seemed to signify man's eternal search for some means of protecting that tiny island of territory known as the self. I learned from the Buddhists that there was no self. Then I learned they didn't mean the same thing I did by self. That was when I learned about the selfless self. You might even call it the self that gives itself up to find its real self. I don't think that quite says it either.

Let's step back and look at this one again. There's a someone or something writing this column. Who? Perhaps just a few fragments of a personality filling the role of writer in a mechanical way, and under the name of Alvin. That's not right either. I know that because something happens when I write. Once I get the machine all oiled up and rolling, things start to pour out that I never knew were in my head. Even when writing comics, ideas pop into the work that Alvin himself had no idea ever existed. They seem to come from a pool somewhere to which I have access from time to time. It doesn't belong to me, but I seem to belong to it. No, I don't mean I'm a manifestation of it. The best I can say is that the more I work, not just at comics, that's minor stuff and I hardly ever do it anymore, but at my work in the novel, the more I realize that there's something connecting me to something vastly larger than I am, and that even if I disappear in my present form, I'll still be part of that connection. There's a character in Dostoyevski, Stephan Trefimovitch, who says: "You have to work to have experience." I've forgotten which book, either The Possessed or The Idiot. But I always remember those words. Work is essentially a form of connecting with reality. Experience is knowledge of reality.

Note that so far, I haven't mentioned the word God. The word embarrasses me because when people use it, I don't know what they're talking about. I find the same problem with religion. Religion of any kind is a system that binds the spirit down to a set of rules and maxims. At one time or another I've made use of that capacity myself. But I've learned to walk without them. I can tell you things about spirit that I really know. Mostly negatives. It's not this or that. It's not here nor there. It has to do with the infinite. But the infinite depends upon the finite for its realization. For example, by definition, a circle is infinite. But there are small circles and large circles, all very finite. You see, it's really a problem of bringing the opposites together. That doesn't tell you very much. But it's a start. And it's why I can see things others can't see, and why I can find people glowing, and why I'm not really trying to gert anywhere by all my efforts at writing. I'm trying mostly to keep in touch with myself. And incidentally, the more people find my writing interesting, the more I feel I'm expanding, joining them and getting more of a hold on what I just can't describe in any other way.

--Alvin

<< 03/29/2004 | 04/05/2004 | 04/12/2004 >>

Discuss this column with me at my Round Table.


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