Because we’ve realized that we’re not going to be around forever. That’s an easy thing to think, while - and if - your body is something on which you can rely without ever having to think about it. But use it enough, and eventually your knees will start to ache and make crunchy noises, your knuckles will start to get sore when you’re doing work with your hands, you’ll start getting kidney stones, or odd lumps in weird places, or headaches that stick around long enough to get scary before they go away, or something.
And that, again, is if you’re lucky enough to have a time in your life when you could unthinkingly trust in your body. Sooner or later, just about all of us learn what it’s like to find that’s no longer the case.
When that starts, it’s hard - eventually impossible - not to realize that it’s going to go on until, one day, it doesn’t: something breaks so badly that it can’t be fixed, and then you get to find out, as everyone eventually has and does and will, what lies on the other side of the transition we call “death”. No matter what any of us believes, at bottom there’s at least a little fear that what lies on the other side will simply be nothing - that we’ll not only cease to exist, but not even realize that we have, because we’re no longer present to realize anything at all. And even if, when that day comes, we find that’s not the case, we know from our lived and living experience that there’s no reliable way to pass information back across that boundary. Whatever lies on the other side of death, we have only as much time as we remain on this side of it to pass along whatever we may have to say to anyone else who’s still alive.
The other thing about living long enough, to figure out some day you won’t be living any more, is that you tend to learn things from it. One of them is the one I’m talking about right now, but that one’s not so important; you’ll figure it out for yourself one day, if indeed you haven’t already. There are lots of others. Much of that knowledge is hard won, and comes with tears and scars and heartache. We know that, all else equal, you’ll figure it out when you need to, just like we did. But we’d like to save you the trouble if we can. And, too, we like to feel that not all the effort we put into such learning will die with us when we do.
So we tell you stories. We work hard on them, too. If they’re not interesting, you won’t listen, even when you pretend for politeness’ sake to do so. So, when we can, we make them funny, we make them sad, we make them shocking and exciting and maybe even a little bit horny, because we remember what we were like at your age and know that - weird as it is to hear someone talk about such things who, you know, can’t possibly still feel them - maybe they’ll stick in your mind, a little, and with them the message you might find useful some day.
These are our stories. They’re some of the things that have conspired to make us who we are. When we tell them, we offer them to you, to use as you see fit. That’s only proper; though some of us forget it and others never learn, it’s no place of ours to make demands of you, who inherit the world from us, that you do things this way and not that one and by God how dare you contravene our assumptions and our expectations. You’re young! Upsetting old people like us is part of what you’re here to do. It ill befits us to complain when you get it right. But we tell our stories anyway, in hopes they’ll be of use to you. Perhaps we can save you some trouble that way. We’re old; that’s part of what we’re here to do. And, too, we hope that in remembering them, you might remember us, who will soon enough be gone.
This isn’t our world any more. It’s yours. But we remember back to before you were here, to a time when we were where you are. It’s not so bad, to be who and where we’ve come to be. But it can be hard, betimes, to think back on when we were young, when our bodies had never let us down, when the world was new and we felt as if we had all the time in the world to build a future in which we’d be pleased and proud to live.
We’ve failed at that, I think, we who are old now. The generation before us, who are these days ancient and dying apace, did a worse job still, I think. But that’s no excuse for us. What we give to you who come after us is not what we’d have had it be. I’m sorry for that, and I think a lot of us must be: we did the best we could, and found it not enough, and we’ve handed you a catastrophe a-brewing. If you blame us for that, it’s right enough you should, for the fault is rightly ours. It would be the height of hubris, having failed you so, to still insist that we know best, and you therefore must heed us.
Of course, some of us are dipshits, and do that anyway. The rest of us tell stories, and try to entertain, in hopes that along with laughter and horror and shock and sorrow and maybe a tiny bit of horny, we might be able to give to you some of the things we’ve learned in our years, so they’re there for you to use. And, too, we hope you might remember us more fondly than we deserve, once we’re gone from this world and feeding the worms and learning whatever the dead may find to learn.
But if you don’t, that’s okay too.