And he will fart for a day.
Teach a man to bean,
And he will fart for a lifetime.”
-Ancient wisdom from a formerly oppressed (but now exalted) minority group.
I’ve always been impressed by the male midlife crisis. This comes to me right now as Red Green is on in the living room at two-o-clock in the morning, and I am sitting on the toilet flipping through a copy of Robert Bly’s Iron John.
I don’t know where my fascination with this tumultuous period in the life of over-privileged (usually white) American males began. I’ve always been drawn to the writing of middle and late John Updike, middle and late John Cheever, and middle and late Saul Bellows. Garrison Keillor’s Wobegon Boy was a formative book in my early reading life. The Mia Farrow era films of Woody Allen are very effective to me, and everything Paul Simon has done from Graceland up ‘til now I have found nothing but engrossing. Denny Crane is the shadow id that Bly suggests most people drag around in a bag behind them most of their life, let loose.
Maybe it’s because I came of age during a period in history where our American president was famously going through a rather awkward and public mid-life crisis. Or maybe it’s because my own father was never self-indulgent enough to go through one. Consistent with our social class, he just seemed to plow on through the ripe crisis years. Maybe it’s because in high school I always seemed to be lucky enough to get jobs that were perfect for midlife men transitioning from their career into retirement, or possibly switching jobs so they could go back to school.
These men can seem wily. They seem to even surprise themselves with their impulsive ideology from time to time, and can be very convincing in the spirituality they discover as they re-evaluate their personal inventories, and try (sometimes desperately) to impart some newfound-- yet ‘ancient’--wisdom on the young men around them. Men in this period of their life often have a certain wild vibe about them. True, at no other point are they as likely to buy a Porsche or to date Scarlett Johansson. But it also seems to be at this age that a man may take a second deep breath in their life, the exhalation from which can be both life-saving from their perspective and inspirational from a third party perspective. I have learned a lot from such men.
If both the young earthers and the Mormons are right, the earth is only about 6,000 years old and our God is a relatively young one: maybe just now getting a touch of gray around the temples? What better time for a midlife crisis.
It would certainly explain the book of Job.