One of most interesting developments in the Human condition occurred in the small-backwater-town of Enfield, England, just 16.3km from Charing Cross, 18.8km from the London Stone and in case you are an abradant cockney, 18.9km from St. Mary-le-Bow, you dandy city-folk.
In 1810, at age 40, philosopher but mostly part-time cat farmer Meil Sans Bishopsgate had, after living a tremendously menial life come to the realization of his sad menial life and decided to do something about it. Being far too poor to purchase bullets or rope, he decided to make the best of it.
He immersed himself in philosophical study for two years at the Clarke’s School in Enfiled, with the set intention of improving the quality of his being or at the very least be able to then afford a bullet or two – the second, in case he missed.
Sans Bishopsgate almost quit his studies mid-way due to the elements and the never ending stream of insults coming from the children who attended the school -although in all fairness, from time to time, the teachers joined in too.
His muse, per-se, was a young and brash tuberculosis ridden boy who beat Bishopsgate to a pulp outside the local pub after a fight broke over the iconic importance of the King James Bible, England’s level of abject poverty and Meil having a stupid name. In his memoirs, published for his mother in 1815, Sans Bishopsgate describes the incident in detail and joyfully recalls, ‘Damn Keats’ boy. Hope he dies soon.’
After finishing his two years of standing outside the window where the philosophy class was taught, a full year of what he called ‘staring up at the sky’ followed with him to the conclusion that he was perfectly happy in his life. Meil wrote, “Even though, I have yet to taste the pleasures of the flesh, one must wonder, what does the body of a man truly encapsule? His Spirit? His gravitas? Does a man’s worth be set upon his receding hair line? Would the tender touch of a woman, nay, the spectacle of her bosom and weaving flocks heaving through the wind from a galloping horse bring peace to an aging man? Am I able to achieve these sights with my bare hands and sheer will?’ Sadly, Meil’s body was found at his mother’s cottage the next morning. Who knew? Sliding off the stairs head first had accomplished what self-illusion and the two bullets encrusted on the wall had not.
In the end, Meil Sans Brishopsgate peeked into the human psyche seventy-three years before Freud and coining the term “Mid-life Crisis” in the last page of his journal. Now, used by men loosing their hair and in desperate attempt of transcendental gratification. For this, he will always be remembered. By the way, that Keats boy ended up becoming one of England’s best poets. Go figure.