In ancient times the world was full of monsters. It needed a Hercules to make roads safer. Two famous monsters were Sphinxes. One is still watching the pyramids of Egypt. Another used to sit on a rock in front of the Grecian city of Thebes and asked every
passer by to answer three questions. If he couldn’t he must die.
One morning a shepherd drove his goat cart along the road. He was in high spirit; he had just settled a right of way quarrel. “Young man,” said the sphinx to him, “please answer me three questions. Which kind of creature runs in the morning on four legs, at noon on two legs, and in the evening on three legs.”
“Easy,” said the shepherd, “that is man. As a small child he crawls, as an old man he uses a walking stick.” The Sphinx was so disappointed, she threw herself with a cry into the abyss behind her rock and fell to death. The citizens of Thebes invited their saviour to occupy the empty desk of the absent mayor plus his half empty nuptial bed. (What followed became stuff for tragedies, still performed on stage).
As a younger man I found this parable of the three ages convincing. Only that my own three ages developed with a certain time lag. My crawling age stretched generally speaking over 29 years. A long morning. Not that I was a late developer, I began to read and write at the age of four. But there was so much to learn and so much to unlearn. I took up Chinese and I forgot Latvian, the language of my home country.
Even when I began to work in publishing, it was only a kind of on the job training. I never felt as perfect and as self convinced as I wanted to be. My sexual life was minimized.
Only when I turned thirty I entered my phase of upright walking. I obtained a promising job as editor / author / analyst, which I kept for 35 years. I could travel a lot, I found a partner who stayed with me for eighteen years, every line I wrote was published. My only enemies were Western Maoists, who disliked my public evaluation of their half god. The German army, then still peaceful, invited me to report about their rescue missions in Bangladesh and Cambodia. In Phnom Penh I shared a meal with Hun Sen and Sihanouk and gained an unforgettable lover, as gracious as the Apsaras on the walls of Angkor Wat.
When China reopened to the outside world, I was one of the first to get a visa. Chinese intellectuals didn’t criticize my valuation of Mao. I won friends among them and translated their newest books. In my position I was employed by the German Parliament, not the Government. That was an important difference, because I had not to support all the nonsense of the government. In fact, with the foreign office I often was at loggerheads. Especially about their advocacy for the Red Khmer, whose terror I had very early publicly disclosed.
Those 34 years were the most fulfilling and satisfying years of my life. I am happy and grateful they were given to me.
When I retired I gave a big farewell party. We served hundreds of spring rolls and a few dozen bottles of Swiss white wine and and and. Many speeches were held, some even congratulating me for leaving. The secretary of the CEO predicted that without work I would fall in a deep black hole. I escaped this fate by flying to South East Asia, making it my new home.
My third age brought me mainly freedom. I found a wonderful penthouse suite in the gulf of Siam, south of Pattaya, I installed a big antenna to watch Chinese TV which belonged in those (Millenium) years to the best of the world. I sat on my balcony and wrote one novel after the other in the inspiring sea wind.
My libido had left me, when I retired at 65, but that was no great miss. For over thirty years I had had my part of the sweetest fruits. Now I followed a life without conflicts, without intrigues. I was completely happy, even without women. After a few years the disappointment began to roll in. I realized how unimportant I was. I had been an accepted broadcasting author. But that counted for nothing in the print world. Not a single agent was willing to have a look at the exposés of my novels. All the competent media men and women of my age were in retirement. The new and younger ones had their own agendas. The market economy of the book business was a jungle. Only two of the six novels I wrote in Thailand made it into print and to Amazon.
The experience of these fourteen years allows me to add an insight to the parable of the sphinx. What you cannot accomplish while on two legs, you cannot achieve on your downwards spiral. The walking stick prevents you from falling, but it is not a weapon to make you a winner for a second time in your life.
Still I gained in insight. What I did not understand in contemporary politics I researched for weeks and weeks in the Internet. And so I came to understand what had bothered me: Why the world changed and how it came to the Afghan War with the rebirth of German Militarism, the Iraq war, the Libyan war, the Syrian war and the wars still coming.
The Internet has become in my eyes a more important medium of information than the commercial media are with their commercial interests. Without Internet how could we have Stickmanbangkok, and how much poorer would our life be without this website. Not to speak of Youtube. Since I announced here the arrival of Kindle in Thailand, I have bought over 300 Amazon e-books, including the complete Chandler and 17 titles of Christopher G. Moore. Their combined weight on my laptop: None.
Then the local Thai microbes began to attack my immune system. The healthy sea air was displaced with artificial respiration. I do not give up easily, but I lost the support of the health insurers. Without their engagement I cannot dare to stay on the gulf coast. Still my years on the Thai gulf coast were eminently worth living, decisive for learning inner peace.
In these days I approach the end of my third age, the one on three legs, and I think the parable of the Theban sphinx is incomplete. A day spans 24 hours, but the questions of the sphinx cover only half of it. What about the other twelve hours, I am now drifting towards? Will I ever be able to tell you about my future encounters? Or is it just: Game over?