“It took a lot of money to start my heart
To peg my leg and to buy my eye
The newspapers call me the state of the art
But the children, when they see me, cry.”
Frozen Man, James Taylor
When my daughters were playing the song “Frozen Man” by James Taylor, I said to them, “You know that song is about middle age, right?” They had no idea what I was talking about. Blank stares.“I know what it means to freeze to death, to lose a little life with every breath, to say goodbye to life on earth, and come around again, Lord, have mercy on the Frozen Man.”
Lord, have mercy indeed. It may take a miracle. Doctors run into it, when your soul is languishing. Something called a “social prescription” has become popular, intended to breathe life back into the human spirit. Doctors will send you out on a night at the opera, a long walk, a visit to an art museum, a pause for beauty, hoping it will take root in long dry soil. It’s not anybody’s fault, it is just what happens in middle age when you take a back seat for say, twenty years and more to provide a stable environment for children to grow.
Middle age is more output than input, nothing to sustain that continued drive. So people crash and burn. They do crazy things or end up in the hospital. Most things are easy at the beginning, and at the end, but it is the long attenuated middle that can be the problem. Even King Solomon for all his wealth and wisdom, spent some time on the side benches trying to figure out just what it was all for.
There was a recent study done to determine what stage of life was most happy. Surprisingly, it was people seventy and older despite the mobility and health issues, and the loss of friends. Getting past the busy middle made things better. They had more time to think and to enjoy. Yes, they were nearing the end of their life, but it is not dying that is hard, it is all that living that happens in the middle.
Forget about the body, fear those who harm the soul Jesus said. It makes me pay special attention to things of the Spirit where mentioned in the Bible. I see the words ‘born again’ with new eyes. Life can have a lot of beginnings and endings. One might have to be born anew a few times in order to survive. That famous passage where Jesus is secretly visited at night by Nicodemus, what he has to say about the Spirit grabs my attention.
“Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it will, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
This curious Spirit. We don’t know exactly what it is but we sure know when we have lost it. Look at anyone who has experienced a tragedy. Their spirit must also be reborn. I read a compelling news article about a woman who had to go back to a place where she was abducted and brutalized, held in captivity. She had to go back to ground Zero, in order to build again as new.
A lot of things wear on you in the course of a lifetime. You can end up carrying some baggage. Still, I wonder sometimes what is worse, when too much happens in short order, or that long holding pattern where not much changes for a long time. Regardless, middle age will take a bite out of you. In the valley of dry bones, Ezekiel wondered aloud, “can these dry bones come back to life again?” It would take a miracle of God, but they did.
As Warren Zevon sagely noted, “Life’ll Kill Ya”. Maybe even a few times. We the earthbound look to the Heavens and pray for mystery. “Oh Lord, let me be born again!” Those who have been dead even for a season will understand this in spades. Lord, have mercy on the Frozen Man.