Grave Filled with Ice Cream

He’s always home. Todd, I mean. He never laughs even though he’s got perfect teeth. Full head of hair in salt and pepper, but the spice of his hair is going bland. Tall, handsome, and in his mid-sixties; Todd can’t help himself but to be noticed as soon as he enters the room.

He has an uncanny side. He wants his grave to be filled with ice cream when he dies. Todd, I mean. He believes pain instructs. He keeps saying that experience is the ability to forget what hurt you. But not so much that you won’t get hurt again. He writes beautifully. His late-style of writing is captivating. Once he wrote “Experience, the conventional wisdom dictates, is a positive. Experience is supposed to teach how to react to circumstances. Experience provides a library of precedent. It can lend perspective. We look at an experienced man’s lined face and grey hair and feel reassured”.

None of Todd’s anecdotes about experience are necessarily untrue, but they won’t stand the test of circumstance because the reality may be rather more complex than what he thinks.

Towards the end of his life, the literary theorist Edward Said became fascinated by the notion of “late style” and how an artist dealt both with age and decay. In his book on Late Style – published three years after his death – he points to those whose late works seem as though they “crown a lifetime of aesthetic endeavor”. His interest, though, is more in those whose late style “involves a non-harmonious, non-serene tension – a sort of deliberately unproductive usefulness”.

Todd has solved countless problems in the past. So he turns to past experience. There is a danger, though, that what was successful in the past will no longer be successful, either because of a false identification of the problem – that is, that a present problem resembles a past problem but is in fact different – or simply because he never leaves home. Todd, I mean.

 

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