Samantha van Dalen

ife and death are the great pretenders, the illusionists who compel us to make sense of the hand we have been dealt with and even that is the luck of the draw (or karma, for some). Every day we are challenged and struggle to make sense of our world but that doesn't mean we have to give in to fear, worse yet, to a fear of ourselves.
A recent house move has necessitated a ruthless clean out of those old boxes lurking under stairs and in the loft and which contain memories of a past long gone. My dream of living in a very small space is about to become a reality but more on that later.
A number of factors have persuaded me that perhaps it is time to live out the rest of my life exactly as I would want it. The last twenty years have been to say the least, quite traumatic: upheavals, long journeys, divorce and terrible betrayal within my own family.
Aging is about saying goodbye and a reminder of the ephemeral nature of life. Botox and plastic surgery are the favoured companions of many these days but they appeal to our fear of life and by inference, death. It is a sad indictment of our society that we do not value older people or the process of aging.
Plants and animals do not walk around tormented by guilt, drowning in a need for penance and a wracked conscience. This is a human failing, perhaps to not move onwards and away from the errors and mistakes we are destined to make.
A friend once invited me to help myself to the many books she had become the de facto owner of when she purchased the flat of a very old woman in London's trendy Holland Park. The lady had died alone, a spinster with no descendants. E
Picasso famously said, "I find. I do not look". He also said: "Look and you will never find." Many have remarked that these two messages from the mouth of a genius are obtuse and incomprehensible.
Of course, Titian was not a surrealist artist, far from it but that power of emotion, which his painting evoked in Gide is something found in abundance in surrealism. Why? Because surrealist art literally turns our world upside down rattling us to the core.
John Cleese has been in the news lately for his autobiography which has the critics in agreement on one thing: how can a 74 year old man still harbour such bitter resentment towards his own mother? Answer: very easy, really.
It happens to all of us as we get older- we find the richness of our memories satiating, filling us with a sort of glee that the thought of things past becomes more than enough. Age is rued by many but it can be a joyful experience. When I was little I wanted to be older.