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The Melancholy Loss of a Fantasy Avocation  

The OLD Philosopher – John M. Miller

From the time I was in fifth grade, I wanted to become a minister. Having now remained continuously active in that vocation for fifty-five years, I have never regretted my youthful determination for a serious moment. For frivolous moments maybe, but not for any serious ones.

However, in youngish old age (from the time I became seventy-seven or so), I fantasized that I might become either a regular or an irregular columnist in a newspaper or magazine. I even gave myself an optimistic pen name: The OLD Philosopher.

By now I have written a hundred or so column-length essays, and I have sent several of them to various publications in hopes they would be published. None of those efforts has come to fruition. Finally, I have reluctantly resolved to give up trying.

The morning on which I am writing this OPOPE (One Page OLD Philosopher Essay), I woke up somewhat depressed. I started to write a different OPOPE, but couldn’t summon up sufficient scribal oomph to finish it. So I sat down to read from the second book of Charles Krauthammer essays given to me by a kind and generous friend. I thought it would lift my mind from my funk. It did. Furthermore, having read a few essays by a brilliantly incandescent if also occasionally politically infuriating writer, I was inspired to write this short essay.

I suspect that as most of us age, and especially when we enter our eighth or ninth decades, we begin to perceive how time inevitably diminishes our expectations for ourselves. I have come to the realization that my fantasy of becoming a published or syndicated newspaper or magazine columnist is just that: a fantasy.

Therefore I shall continue to write sermons for those who attend The Chapel Without Walls. I also shall send those sermons and columns such as this to those of you who have been receiving copies of them via email. There are over one-hundred-seventy-five people to whom I send these instantaneously-relayed missives.

I have no doubt that most of you either delete these literary efforts immediately, or quickly scan them and then delete them. Since I also do that with many of the emails to which I am subjected, I can hardly blame you for doing the same.

Nevertheless, for my own sake, and perhaps for the sake of some of you as well, this OLD philosopher will persist in writing and sending his thoughts to you on a periodic basis. Although I psychologically recognize the necessity of relinquishing a dream I acquired in my old age, I will maintain it in the limited manner to which you and I have become accustomed over the past two-plus years.

I am reminded of some of the last lines of my all-time favorite poem. It is Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood by William Wordsworth.

What though the radiance which was once so bright    

Be now forever taken from my sight,

                              Though nothing can bring back the hour

Of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower;

                                    We will grieve not, rather find

                                    Strength in what remains behind;

                                    In the primal sympathy

                                    Which having been must ever be;

                                    In the soothing thoughts that spring

                                    Out of human suffering;

                                    In the faith that looks through death,

                        In years that bring the philosophic mind.      

     I have always supposed that the most evident facet of the talents God gave me was to write and then to preach sermons, plus transcribing many other thoughts onto paper for various uses. I don’t know how long I will be able to continue to preach. But when I can no longer write, what I have always conceived to be the particular ministry God entrusted to me may have ended.

     At that point it may be very difficult to find strength in what remains behind. For the time being, therefore, I shall keep assaulting you with my continuously-darting thoughts.





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