“Youth is the gift of nature, but age is the work of art.” – Stanislaw Jerzy Lec
Through the Eyes of Jan Morris
I picked up The World, a travel book by Jan Morris, at the library last week and am fascinated by it. The book contains a collection of the writer’s work, beginning with the story of the 1953 summiting of Everest for the first time, and ending with an article on Britain’s relinquishment of Hong Kong in 1997.
I was 14 years old in 1953, seeing world happenings through my own eyes – well at least when I was aware of what going on around me – and thus, as I said, fascinated by seeing events and places a second time through both mine and Morris’ eyes and thoughts, veiled in the gauzy haze of half a century.
I had, over the years, read many magazine travel articles by Morris, but none of the writer’s many books, of which the most noted is his history of the British Empire trilogy, Pax Britannica. I knew little, however, about Morris’ personal life. And for some strange reason, or so I thought, I truly didn’t know if the writer was male or female, perhaps because. I knew people of both sexes called Jan.
I laughed when I discovered the answer in The World’s prologue written by Morris. Jan began life as James, completing an eight-year sex transition in 1972. So he wrote over time as both genders. I guess my instincts were right on target.
Meanwhile, I’m simply enjoying his writing, and traveling back in time to the many eras Jan and this old wondering-wanderer broad have lived through. Morris, in his prologue, could have been speaking for me, when he sums up his feelings about the world over the years.
“I was twenty-four years old at the start of the 1950s, seventy-four at the end of the 1990s, so the passage of the globe described in this book is the passage of a life, too, from the twilight of adolescent to the dawn of senility, all its judgments, unreliable in any case, are colored by the grand change of life from youth to old age … Few of us are consistent in our opinions and values for fifty years, and we are affected not only by experience and maturation, but by moods, fickle tastes, boredom and personal circumstance.”
Ain’t it the truth!
Bean Pat Morning song http://tinyurl.com/pzn3qla If you love to be woken by bird twitter, you’ll like this house wren’s salute to the day.