Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Simeon Stylites looks at 30


Simeon Stylites' pathology was vocational.

But it hadn't always been this way. Growing up, Simeon never worried about growing up. In fact, Simeon was convinced he never would grow up -- his certainty of this ushered in by an early vision that he'd die -- really die, irrevocably -- at 29. He wasn't clear on how it would happen, but was fully convinced it would not be in a high-speed motorcycle crash on California's coastal Highway 1, or being eaten alive by the sharks that waited in the craggy waters below.

These sorts of visions, after all, would just have been flights of fancy -- the drama too heightened to be real life. If these had been Simeon's visions, they would have been proof enough that his imagination had simply gotten the best of him; they would have cast a suspicious pall, in fact, over his death-at-29 prognostication altogether. In contrast, that Simeon's own death-visions were always blurred, vague, but invariably mundane for all that -- a car accident, perhaps, or a surprisingly early case of testicular cancer -- reinforced, at least to him, that he was in fact going to die within the decade.

And so, Simeon Stylites never did bother making plans for what he'd "do" someday. Why come up with some grand orchestration for a life that would end so soon, so tragically? Simeon reasoned instead that time would be better spent smoking marijuana, writing music on crumpled napkins, watching un-slept sunrises. As far as that went, his early 20s seemed so far to prove him right.

But by his late 20s, the whole game had changed. The visions of a premature death had almost entirely been replaced by a prophecy more daunting still: a 30-, 40-, even 50-year wilderness opened up ahead of him, just past the guard rail that had always kept him safely on the younger side of 29.

"Crap," said Simeon Stylites. And at that, he started walking into the expanse, beginning his frenetic search for vocation.

2 comments:

Dave said...

Was this Simeon Stylites the Elder or Simeon Stylites the Younger?

Nathan First said...

Dave: this was the lesser known Simeon Stylites the Dumber. (Poor feller - did he ever find his pillar?)