How Old Is Old?

“Do you know how long a year takes when it’s going away?’ Dunbar repeated to Clevinger. ‘This long.’ He snapped his fingers. ‘A second ago you were stepping into college with your lungs full of fresh air. Today you’re an old man.’

‘Old?’ asked Clevinger with surprise. ‘What are you talking about?’


‘I’m not old.’

‘You’re inches away from death every time you go on a mission. How much older can you be at your age? A half minute before that you were stepping into high school, and an unhooked brassiere was as close as you ever hoped to get to Paradise. Only a fifth of a second before that you were a small kid with a ten-week summer vacation that lasted a hundred thousand years and still ended too soon. Zip! They go rocketing by so fast. How the hell else are you ever going to slow down?’ Dunbar was almost angry when he finished.

‘Well, maybe it is true,’ Clevinger conceded unwillingly in a subdued tone. ‘Maybe a long life does have to be filled with many unpleasant conditions if it’s to seem long. But in that event, who wants one?’

‘I do,’ Dunbar told him.

‘Why?’ Clevinger asked.

‘What else is there?”

~ Joseph Heller in Catch 22.



To my dear friend Conrad, this is specially for you.

Off the blog world, I have some friends who follow my posts and prefer to comment through emails rather than to leave comments on the posts. One such friend, a fellow traveller as I call him pointed out these two little nuggets as response to my post Commitment To The Unverifiable.

One – From Carroll’s Through The Looking Glass. The dialogue starts with the White Queen.

“I’m just one hundred and one, five months and a day.”
“I can’t believe that!” said Alice.
“Can’t you?” the Queen said in a pitying tone. “Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.”
Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said: “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

Amazing insight! Believing in impossible things becomes easy with practice!

Two – From Catch 22.

Friend’s wife: “But the God I don’t believe in is a good God, a just God, a merciful God. He is not the mean and stupid God you make Him out to be”

Yossarin:”Let’s have a little more religious freedom between us. You don’t believe in the God you want to, and I won’t believe in the God I want to.”

I don’t even remember when I read this beauty of a book. Perhaps over four decades ago. I think that it is time I went back to read it again.

Another friend sent me this complaint: “My wife treats me like a GOD..!!
She takes NO notice of my existence till she wants something”.

And another friend Keith, in a different context had recommended some time ago that I watch a BBC series The Indian Doctor. It was only in the last few days that I was able to and in the second series of a three series showing, the doctor has to face a wily reverend who preaches the gospel and eventually turns out to be a charlatan. As I was watching the episodes where the priest is talking about faith, I kept remembering the mail from my friend and that has been the inspiration for this post as well. This is a very watchable series and I strongly recommend it to my readers.