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     Volume 4 Issue 72 | November 25, 2005 |

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How the Stage Gets set to Play the Last Act

SD Khan

IT always comes as a surprise, a jolt. While casually gazing into the mirror of your bathroom, one fine morning you suddenly realise if you see your father's face. A revealing discovery that turns you mediative. It is said that 'a man knows when he is old because he begins to look like his father'. This is how a man is "intimated" about his becoming old. Old age creeps unawares upon man. In his desire to live long, man wouldn't like to be old or to acknowledge or take notice of his withered body and decrepit motion. But nature, leading us by hand, an easy and, as it were, an insensible pace, step by step, conducts us to that miserable state and makes it familiar to us, so that we are insensible of the stroke when our youth dies in us. Old age is the most unexpected of all things that happen to a man, said Leon Trotsky once.

There are mainly two ways of receiving "intimations" of man's hour of exit from this life: one, is by his physical infirmity and dotage (brought on by various ailments and geriatric disorders) and the other, by the supremely pleasing appearance, on the scene, of the rich 'crop' of the third generation. At this stage, a man comes to realise that the allotted time of his life is well-neigh spent and a very little of it is now left. Lanced by the various pursuing cantankerous problems like the unresolved tax problem, unpaid loans, property headache, etc, life now becomes utterly unbearable. Physical disabilities and tormenting diseases coupled with these nasty mundane problems relentlessly chasing after, showing no possibility of their solution in the remaining part of life, prompts the man to literally opt out of life. The flowering and fruition of life whatsoever was there, now appears to be completely outweighed and eclipsed by the pursuing unresolved worldly matters. Life now becomes too wearisome to be lived anymore. The stage is now thus all set for our dejected man to welcome his exit from life. In the judgment of another man's life, therefore, I always observe how he carried himself at his death.

"That men, however fortune may smile upon them, could never be said to be happy till they had been seen to pass over the last day of their lives", by reason of the uncertainty and mutability of human things, which upon every light and trivial occasions, are subject to be totally changed into a contrary condition. The very felicity of life itself, which depends upon the tranquility and contentment of a well-descended spirit, and the resolution and assurance of a well-ordered soul, ought never to be attributed to any man till he has first been seen to play the last, and doubtless, the hardest act of his part. There may be disguise and dissimulation in all the rest, but this last scene of death, there is no more counterfeiting: we must speak out plain, and discover what there is of pure and clean in the bottom of the pot.

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