Years ago….20 to be exact….I used to review movies for a station here in Houston. One largely forgettable movie I once tackled was “Jacob’s Ladder”. It stars Tim Robbins who portrays a New York postal worker named Jacob Singer who’s trying to keep his frayed life from unraveling. His days are increasingly being invaded by flashbacks to his first marriage, his now-dead son, and his tour of duty in Vietnam where he was wounded by a bayonet during an attack on his platoon.
He wakes up in a New York subway on his way home from work late one night. Over the next few days, Jacob is chased by demons and believes the army is conspiring against him, all of this while having strange visions representing different periods of his life.
OK so, there you have the plot in a nutshell. But what this movie is about isn’t as important as its title. “Jacob’s Ladder”. I’d heard the phrase before. I knew it had something to do with biblical philosophy…or home construction.
I had to look it up because well, as a recovering Catholic, I would have to. It’s first mentioned in Genesis 28:10-12.
Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Haran. When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. He had a dream in which he saw a stairway/ladder resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.
It’s in this passage that God reveals Himself to Jacob and reaffirms the covenant He made with Abraham, promising Jacob that his offspring will be many and that the Promised Land will one day belong to his descendants. In this vision Jacob sees something similar to a ladder or a stairway which signifies a connection between God and man. In this instance, it was God who provided the means necessary to link Himself to man as opposed to the men of Babel in Genesis 11 who tried to reach heaven by their own actions, without the help of God.
And we all know what happened with the Tower of Babel, right? It started to lean big time and became a tourist attraction in Italy.
But I digress…
The movie, which I hated, got me thinking about all kinds of axioms–biblical, philosophical and otherwise. In my pursuit to learn more about Jacob’s Ladder, I started getting into all kinds of similar thought processes; Occam’s razor for one.
In the simplest of terms Occam’s razor (or Ockham or Hockham or any of a number of different spellings) states that the simplest explanation is usually the right one. Doctors use it to determine an illness by its symptoms. Detectives use it to deduce who the likeliest suspect in a murder case would be — you know, as in “the butler did it.”
I hadn’t thought much about Occam or his razor until I attended a party recently. I saw friends, former broadcasting colleagues and acquaintances that I hadn’t seen in decades. I didn’t recognize some of them. Sadly, several didn’t recognize me either. Why? Well, it wasn’t a costume party, people. We didn’t recognize each other because we’ve aged.
And then, the concept was hammered home further when I dined in a Middle Eastern restaurant not long ago. The dining room had this very large TV screen. As I sat there eating my gyro, I was forced to watch a soap opera I hadn’t seen since the mid 80’s.
I used to watch the soon to be cancelled, All My Children in the TV lounges on campus in between classes. University officials turned several cafeteria adjacent meeting rooms into comfy, darkened rooms in which students could come in chill and watch the carryings on of their favorite asshole men and bitch/tramp women as they’d consort, cavort, cheat, lie and when ratings demanded it, murder their way through the course of an hour’s time slot on the phenomenon known as “daytime television”.
The last time I watched AMC, Erica Kane was still wreaking havoc in Pine Valley; Mona was her long-suffering mother. Phoebe was still rich and conniving and several young characters had been introduced, too. I remember one of these nubile newbies was Tad Gardner, played by dashing actor, Michael E. Knight. This is how I remember him. →
Good looking, huh?
Michael E. Knight always had a lot of personality, at least he acted like he did. I always thought he’d be cool to know. He perfected the “Tad The Cad” role beautifully and became one of those characters that we (and this is so cliché) “loved to hate”. His character was wildly popular and often his antics became THEE STORY line on All My Children.
I think I last laid eyes on him it was maybe, possibly the early spring of 1985. I graduated in May of that year and entered the work force right away and never again fell victim to the siren song of soap operas. They are like meth in their addictive natures.
And that means my last dalliance as a soap fan was….what? Twenty five years ago?
Well, much to my surprise, I saw Michael E. Knight…the 2011 version of him on All My Children as ate my lunch. Wow!! He’s still on AMC which professionally speaking, is an incredible feat, but that wasn’t the source of my dismay. I was shocked because Michael looked so…so…old.
This man is, in real life, a mere two weeks younger than me and he now has the audacity to look like the 52-year-old man his driver’s license says he is. How did that happen? When did that happen? Now please, don’t get me wrong. Mike is still wonderfully handsome, even in his well-worn, lived-in state, but after 25 years of not laying eyes on him once…not one single time, I was surprised at his aging metamorphosis. I really couldn’t believe my eyes.
No, that’s actually a lie.
I didn’t want to believe my eyes.
To do so would mean that I too have aged just as much, which I have, but here’s the difference: I’ve watched what time has wrought on my face and body. I’ve witnessed the southern migration of my body parts on a daily basis. I look in the mirror and I see what looks back at me. So, in my defense, I was a bit shocked because I hadn’t seen hide nor hair of Michael Knight in a quarter of a century.
And spare me the insults–I know I’ve no room to talk. Like Michael, I’m 52 and while blessed with very few facial wrinkles, my metabolism has moved and left no forwarding address and as a result, I have an ass that continues to enter a room, five to eight seconds after I do. This winter, I plan on using my boobs as a scarf.
My paunchy, hormonally layered stomach is no better. If I ever allowed my fish belly white skin ANY solar exposure, I’d know that by the second hour in the sun, one of the little red plastic timer things would pop out of my navel indicating my doneness and that I’m ready to be removed from nature’s oven.
But then again, it is as I’ve said–I’ve seen my downward spiral as it happened. I was there; present as it was unfolding. And if I didn’t think that before, going to the party I attended recently changed that for me. I saw the way they were looking at me. They scoured my face and bod and probably struggled to recognize who and what they last saw a decade or more ago. I KNOW they saw someone older…. certainly wider. And sadly, I looked at them in the same way.
Some people age very well, but the truth is, Time isn’t very kind to most people. We can do everything we can to ward off the ravages of time, but without locating the Fountain of Youth and drinking from it with Big Gulf cups. Or if you have the bucks to employ Dr. Juan Epstein, plastic surgeon to the scars, you’re gonna age with all the nasty, ugly tale-tale signs.
Enter former Doobie Brother, Michael McDonald. He was a guest coach on American Idol not long ago. His talent is still obvious, but he too has fallen victim to time and tide and apparently, Twinkies.
“…I keep forgetting we’re not a size 6 anymore…”
DENIAL CASE 1: I’d love to think that both Michaels, my fellow party guests and myself are all victims of some horrible life hoax perpetrated by special effects guru, Rick Baker and his team of Hollywood make up wizards sneaked in our homes and armed with latex, fat suits, wrinkled skin prosthetics and Bondo, and when we were asleep, aged us all a la Benjamin Button just for grins.
But that didn’t happen.
DENIAL CASE 2: I’d like to think we;ve all aged because we’ve been exposed to an alien pterodactyl fart. One that’s still pissed at humanity for that extinction thing and made radioactive because it had perched too long atop one of the reactor towers at Chernobyl.
But that didn’t happen either.
The explanation behind what actually happened is simple–we’ve aged. That’s it in a nutshell..
We’ve been incested by Father Time; mocked by depleting collagen; attacked by digestive systems that are retaliating after years of beer and pizza and then the fad diets we’d employ to reduce the damage all those carbs caused initially. Make no mistake, somehow along the way, we got older and that meant we got grayer, wrinklier and heavier. These are the more obvious components of the human condition; it’s what happens in the natural process that is the acquisition of years.
What are ya gonna do????
It is life.
It is Occam’s razor.