TUMBY BAY - During my high school years I hung out with friends who were interested in art and literature. A few of those with longer and hairier arms also had an interest in sport but culture was the main thing. And the opposite sex was also of interest. Of course.
We were all going to dedicate our lives to pursuing the finer things in life. We also intended to be millionaires by the time we were 30.
It was only in later years that we came to realise that art and literature were not necessarily compatible with wealth.
When this reality dawned, most of us compromised our ambitions and opted for wealth over art and literature and set out to achieve financial success.
Now that I’m in my seventies I’ve got enough spare time to contemplate how this worked out.
One of my friends wanted to be a painter. He was reasonably talented but not good enough to make a living out of it. Instead he became an art teacher.
That worked out for a while but he always had a nagging suspicion that he had somehow sold out. Finally, after his marriage hit the rocks and he had developed a serious drinking problem, he took the plunge, bought an old house in a small country town and began to paint seriously.
I used to visit him but after a while his drinking and slovenly existence drove me away. It’s only recently I caught up with him again.
He’s still boozing and smoking like a haystack, he’s got some serious health problems and he’s not selling many paintings. But he’s as happy as a pig in mud.
Another of those teenage friends wanted to be a writer. He was constantly scribbling poems and assailing us with his rambling creations.
I don’t know how it happened but he ended up writing stories for a newspaper and scripts for television advertising. He’s now worth a lot of money. He was the one I least expected to sell his soul to Mammon but he seems to be extremely happy with the way life has turned out.
Whenever I see him he shows me the latest technological gadget he’s bought and explains how it is going to make money for him.
I must admit have a great deal of trouble staying in the same room with him for more than an hour but I’m happy he has had a good life.
Both of these friends know each other and whenever I see one of them they devote a great deal of time telling me what a terrible person the other is.
The painter thinks the writer is a money-grubbing parasite who made himself rich by selling people things they didn’t need or could afford.
The writer thinks the painter is a pathetic slob who has wasted his entire life and deserves everything that happened to him.
Suffice to say neither sees the other very often and when they do there is none of the old teenage rapport or camaraderie apparent, just an uncomfortable display of fake manners.
I think, on balance, that I respect the painter more than the erstwhile writer. I’m not sure why this is but I suspect it’s because he stayed reasonably true to himself.
They are two extremes and when I hold up my own life to theirs I can see how I’ve more or less navigated somewhere in between.
I’ve managed not to get too carried away in my relationship with Mammon and I’ve maintained some semblance to the ideals we all espoused when we were young and naïve.
Like them, I am happy with the outcome and I guess that’s all we can expect of life.