The Two Arnies

Arnold Schwarzenegger posted a photograph of himself sleeping on the ground beside his statue. Various apocryphal stories as to why he did this have circulated on the internet. Some suggest he was denied a hotel room, others that the hotel in question had once offered him free accommodation for life whilst he was Californian governor, a promise they broke the moment he was no longer powerful. As a multimillionaire, I doubt such promise-breaking troubled him too much, and the statue in question is outside an Ohio convention centre rather than a hotel.  

I think his point was rather subtler. I would invite you to compare the two Arnolds. One shows a man in his prime -and what a prime it is! When I was at school, boys would run around the playground pretending to be this man, shooting ‘baddies’ and punching imaginary opponents. The other is a man who, sleeping beneath this idealised image, has a beard tinged with grey. Whereas the statue’s body ripples with muscle, his face is now wrinkled by age. Unlike the bronze man whose limbs are forever taut, the one in the green sleeping bag looks generally tired.  

In Ecclesiastes 12, Solomon anticipates the day when

 

…the keepers of the house tremble,

And the strong men bow down;

When the grinders cease because they are few,

And those that look through the windows grow dim.

 

He describes old age and the inevitable beckoning of death. It comes for us: the strong, the weak, the wise and the foolish. Some are afforded daily reminders of their increasing dilapidation; others are taken suddenly, without warning. Solomon urges his ageing readers to  

 

Remember your Creator before the silver cord is loosed,

Or the golden bowl is broken.

 

We live in an age in which ‘religion’ appears to be the preserve of the old. Several generations of young people have expressed their independence by forsaking faith and embracing materialism. Yet old age, too, can create a hardness of heart paralleling the hardness of arteries, stiffness of limbs and dullness of sight. Solomon pleads with his readers to call on the Creator before death calls for them. Indeed, he writes Ecclesiastes 4:13:

 

Better is a poor and a wise child than an old and foolish king, who will no more be admonished.

 

I’ve met some foolish and silly teenagers in my time. I've also met some very hard-hearted and spiritually calloused old people.