Knowing Up From Down
Copyright 2022 by Kip Rosser
Photo by Elena Mozhvilo at Unsplash.
a word that troubles me. I think a lot about this word. I’ll
tell you what it is in a minute. But first, there’s a different
word you need to know. The word is contronym.
A contronym is a word that, strange as it seems, is actually its own
the word “off,”
for example. It can mean to shut down or deactivate, as in the
shut the light off.” But it can also mean the opposite -- to
turn on or activate -- as in “my
alarm clock just went off.” How bizarre is that?!
a few more.
word “out” is, astonishingly, a double
has more than one meaning, it contains its own opposite twice! First:
“out” means both outside and inside, as in the sentence,
“I never have time to go out [outside] because I run a business
out [inside] of my home.” Second: “out” means both
off/visible and on/visible, as in, “At first, I couldn’t
see a thing when the lights went out [off], but I was able to find my
way to the car because the full moon was out [on].
one of my favorites: the word, “left.” It can mean
something that’s gone, as in, “He just left the room.”
Yet, it can mean something that’s still here, as in, “There’s
only one piece of pie left.”
the word, “dust.”
It can mean to remove something, or, it can mean to apply something.
“I dusted the furniture” – remove. “I dusted
the donuts with powdered sugar”—
love this stuff, but what’s this got to do with me?
just reached the age of sixty-nine. And, as I said, there’s a
word that’s giving me trouble. The word is “downhill.”
As it relates to aging, I’ve dedicated significant time to
nailing down its meaning once and for all, so that older adults
everywhere can join me in sticking to that definition. “Downhill”
is one hell of a contronym.
about that word. Downhill can describe both something that’s
hard and something that’s easy. It can mean that things are
going to be good, but it also can mean that they’re going to be
bad. Take bicycling. Everyone knows that pedaling uphill is hard, but
all downhill from there.” Downhill means easy. We use this
analogy all the time. “Get
past the difficulty of installing the operating system on that
computer, then it’s all downhill.”
master those guitar chords, playing that song is all downhill from
definition. Going downhill is easy, it’s
great – after the hard work of going uphill, you’ve
earned a reward. You can coast. Downhill’s wonderful.
you’re talking about aging.
my fiftieth birthday, people were full of congratulations, as if I’d
achieved something. What a milestone! “The
Big Five-O!” Then, with a sigh of dismay, these same people
all downhill from here.” And they did not
a minute! Now downhill’s definition has just flipped?
Downhill’s going to be hard? It’s going to be bad? All
these people are patting me on the back for making it a half-century,
and yet they can tell me in the same breath that I should consider
myself in a state of steady decline from now on? Who likes to be told
something like that? I flat-out reject that definition of downhill
regardless of my current age, and so should you. It’s uphill
that’s hard, takes all the effort; it’s uphill that’s
get something straight; aging is not an achievement. It’s a
fact of life. Aging itself is, remarkably, just like coasting; you
don’t have to do a damn thing. It happens by itself, easily,
over time. In fact, the words, “age,” “aging”
or “aged” are themselves contronyms. We’ve decided
as a society to make “age” mean decomposition, something
in decline, devalued. “These old photos of my great grandfather
are yellowed, fading and crumbling with age.” At the same time,
we’ve decided that all sorts of things
(as opposed to people) are to be treasured, that things
inherently acquire more value as they get older, as in, “my
1909 S VBD penny is valued at $2,277.00 and it’s worth more and
more as it ages,” or, “this whiskey is fantastic; it’s
been aged over sixty years!”
have made a conscious decision to separate the uphill side of aging
from the downhill side. I
to see the
uphill side of aging for what it is, and when I did, what do you know
-- most of the things associated with it are the same struggles that
I (and everyone else on the planet) cope with throughout life,
of age. Physical ailments and injuries can happen any time. Mental
illnesses can take hold when we’re young. Financial
difficulties hit us without considering how old we are. Sure, there
are some challenges specifically associated with aging that can be
devastating. They, too, are the uphill
obstacles we have to surmount.
we agree that from now on, anything difficult that happens as we age
They’re the things we have to overcome so that we can reap the
rewards of aging, enjoy life fully, and discover joy in the ease and
exhilaration of the downhill ride.
the downhill ride? It’s the sum of my experiences, the people
and things that I continue to value through the years. I routinely
take stock of everything and everyone that sustains me, keeps me
happy. They’re all part of my downhill ride. I’m married
to the love of my life -- together (so far) for fifty-two years. I
have relationships with friends that span decades. I’m never
bored, there’s always something I’m involved in, and
there’s never a shortage of things I want to learn about.
yes, I do feel every passing year, I see the marks each one leaves.
When the 2016 diagnosis of cancer was handed to me (again, something
that can happen to anyone
it was necessary to start pedaling uphill. Five years later, I’ve
reached the crest of the hill. And now, with my
I spend most of my time coasting with the sun at my back, my face in
the wind, and more life right there, ahead of me.
Rosser lives and works in Morrisville Pennsylvania. He began writing
plays while in middle school. Since that time,
has authored a
novel, short stories, poetry, several screenplays and over a dozen
plays ranging from musicals to
dramas to numerous one-acts. All are unpublished. Equipped with a BFA
in Acting/Directing from Ithaca
MFA in Directing from Northwestern, Rosser moved to New York City and
worked as a director,
graphic artist, Art Director and copywriter. In 2003, The Dallas
Theater Conference’s Plays for the
Century awarded him First Place for his play, Rare Times
Altogether. His play, Keepsakes was a finalist
Drama Award. He took third place in the San Francisco Playwright’s
competition for his original drama,
Sleep She Alice
Toklas Goes. Stage West in Fort Worth Texas produced his outrageous,
surreal comedy, Foxcodd.
saw his original full-length production, Unholy Secrets of the
Theremin, presented with concert pianist, Jef Anderson,
New York International Fringe Festival, receiving overwhelming
critical praise. His works
staged readings. Also a skilled performer, Rosser’s most
current writing takes the form of solo performance
the Theremin. Invented in 1919, this grandfather of all electronic
instruments is played without being touched;
staged productions, award-winning musical compositions and industry
recognition have earned him a reputation
as one of the
most accomplished thereminists playing in the world today.
of the message
won't know where to send it.)
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