On Nineteen

November 13, 2007

In his magnum opus, the Dark Tower heptology, Stephen King writes a foreword to the last several volumes entitled simply, “On Being Nineteen,” and the number 19 shows up as an idée fixe throughout the series.

I remember 19 very well: it is a potent threshold, a time shimmering with the halo of possibility. If you can keep that halo alive, then in a very real way, you’re always nineteen.

When I first met Cameron Johnson and the seed for You Call the Shots was born, we were both on the thresholds of stepping into new decades: I was forty-nine, he was nineteen. I felt like I was talking with someone (at last!) my own age.

Some people say that as a civilization, in reaching the year 2000 we have reached the threshold of adulthood: passing from 19(hundred) to 20(hundred) — time to grow up. Perhaps that’s true. If so, who better to look to for inspiration than nineteen- and twenty-year-olds?

As it happens, my youngest son, Chris, is nineteen.

What is he up to? I can’t say I know for sure, but whatever it is, it’s bound to turn into something fascinating and wonderful.

He and I have lately been watching the TV show “Heroes” on DVD. I love it. It’s about discovering one’s unique ability, and how that plays into the bigger picture in transforming the world. Hey — that’s what I chase after every single day.

What nobler and more exciting, fulfilling pursuit could one possibly undertake?

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