Crusades of the middle aged
Some people are on a lifelong mission to save the world from itself
The Circling Fin
When you are young and of a certain cast of mind, your greatest ambition is to Change The World. The secret missions of the teenage idealist can be as lofty and pointed as the Spire on O’Connell Street. For example, consigning imperialism, poverty, and soft rock to that bulging receptacle revolutionaries and emperors alike call the ‘dustbin of history’.
As time wears on, the Great Plans take a backseat to staying solvent, sane and sheltered. Then a serious relationship enters the fray and life gets complicated. Bills roll in and soon comes the stomping of tiny, and then not-so-tiny, feet; the Grand Plans that once dominated the imagination are replaced by More Modest Contributions to World Improvement. Signing the occasional petition against war on the way into the supermarket, or keeping up with the basic facts of the latest scandal that threatens to upend one or other pillar of Irish Society.
In time, the teenage desire to bring peace and understanding to Belfast, Kabul and Washington is replaced by more pedestrian ambitions, such as getting people to follow the rules of the road and, when that proves impossible, getting the kids to turn out the lights in empty rooms and close the doors when the heating is on.
But personal crusades for the middle-aged man can get just as intense as saving the world gets for philanthropists and teenagers.
Among my personal goals in recent years has been weaning people off the form ‘two thousand and’ when referring to the years of this century and subtly suggesting the neater version of ‘twenty oh two’ or ‘twenty fourteen’, for example. We didn’t go around saying “one thousand, nine hundred and eighty-four” in 1984, did we? But somehow ‘thousands’ crept into our vocabulary at the turn of the millennium and, along with my dedicated followers, I have had a hard job marching them back out again.
(By the way, I recently discovered the film director Stanley Kubrick may be the one to blame: apparently when the film ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ came out in 1968, his publicists instructed the media on the form to use: ‘Two thousand and one’ rather than ‘Twenty oh one’, as per Mr Kubrick’s personal preference, thus setting a globally observed protocol in motion that keeps me awake at night over forty years later.)
A few years ago I was all about getting people to avoid touching the mouse on their computer and use keyboard shortcuts instead: Ctrl and C to copy a block of text for example. I once gave a speech about it in a local hotel. If any of the audience that night are reading this, I apologise for the lecture.
I’ll spare you any more of my personal crusades since I’m beginning to realise I probably have dozens on the go at any give time. From now on my personal crusades will exclusively be concerned with self-improvement.
Once I am perfect, I will be moving back on to the rest of you.
Fin Keegan is a writer based in Westport. This column is based on his weekly radio essay, heard on WRFM radio, and online at thecirclingfin.com.