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Musing on Mortality, or Life, Death, the Universe, and Everything

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(Long-time readers of my LiveJournal may have deja vu at some of my blog entries, as I am recycling and combining some old LJ entries.)

A certain portion of the boomer generation–generally in the higher socioeconomic classes–seems to think that if one just eats the right things in the right amounts, does the right amount and kind of exercise, has the right amount and kind of sex with the right partner, and so on, one can live forever. It’s a sociological phenomenon that I don’t read or hear much comment on, and it’s very obvious to me that it exists.

Where does it come from? Is it the mindset of wanting more-more-more, and when one reaches a certain level materially, one turns to time, longer-longer-longer? Is it that we’re Americans, by god, and we can do anything we put our minds to? Or is it me-first-ism gone crazy? I am all that matters, I am the center of the universe, the world must always contain ME?

Who are we, that we think we should live forever? That we should continue to take up resources beyond the span that humans have always considered appropriate? (Note that this is a rhetorical “we.” I most certainly do not think this.) Is this the foreseeable outgrowth of our voracious consumption of all the natural resources we want, with no concern for future generations?

Don’t I want to live forever? Sure, in the abstract. It makes me sad to think that I won’t know how it all turns out, both for humanity at large and for my own children and their children (should they have any). But if we all lived forever, humanity would have to stop reproducing (imagine a world with all of today’s population plus its descendants for a couple of generations, all still alive and continuing to reproduce!). Not only would we lose any possibility of having new brains think of new things, but our children or grandchildren–whatever point we stopped reproduction at–would never be able to choose whether to be parents. Everything in society that relates to childhood or the teenage years would disappear, as the last generation moved into adulthood. We might care more about “the future,” because now it would be our own future, but that would simply exacerbate the self-centeredness. To me, this is not a pretty picture.

No, I think the system humankind has always had–you’re born, you grow, perhaps you reproduce, you get old, you die–is better. I’ll accept my part in the circle of life–and death.

I have been aware of mortality–my own, and everyone’s around me–from a very young age. A cousin died at 10, when I was 2; I don’t know when I first became aware of it, but I was pretty young. My grandfather, whom I loved dearly, died when I was 5. My newborn baby brother died when I was 6. A classmate and her younger sister and another child were killed in a car accident the summer after we were in fourth grade. My best friend’s 16-year-old brother was killed in a diving accident when we were about 12.

When I was 5, and again when I was 7, I was seriously ill. I didn’t, I think, realize at the time that I might die, but I wasn’t much older before I did realize that I could have. In a way, I think of every day I have had since then as lagniappe. So I have tried to live my life as much in the present as I can. I plan ahead when it is necessary or wise, but I don’t generally envision myself doing or being thus-and-so. Each day is enough of a gift and enough of a challenge to satisfy me. I think this ties in, too, with why I like–and try to live by–the Starfish Story. If I can make a difference to that one, right here and now, I’ll try to do it, because there’s never any guarantee that I will make it to the next one–or that the next one will make it there to be helped by me.

“Always Safe from Harm”

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Not long ago I resurrected and posted (to LiveJournal and Facebook) something I wrote four years ago:

We are not safe; we never have been; in any future I can imagine, we will not be. No human can guarantee to keep her/himself safe, much less the rest of us. Those who promise to do so are liars. The most someone can truthfully say is that they think they can keep some selected group of people safe from a specific danger under very specific circumstances. If you are requiring someone to tell you otherwise, you are requiring them to lie to you.

Along comes our president and says, in his second inaugural address: “Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm.”

Possibly the hardest fact for any good parent to learn is that we cannot keep our children always safe from harm. No parent (or other caregiver) in the history of the world, no matter how rich or how powerful, no matter how benign their environment, has been able to do that. The lucky kids make it through without serious harm, but much of that is indeed luck–or fate or karma, call it what you will–and has little to do with what their parents do or don’t.

Yes, a society as a whole, especially with the power of its leadership, can make strides in keeping its children safer. But never “always safe”–as I said, we never have been; in any future I can imagine, we will not be. WIpe out all the diseases, abolish car accidents, end all the domestic and other abuse, stop the wars and all the other violence, and there will still be natural disasters.

Can our children–any of them, much less the president’s “all our children”–ever “know that they are … always safe from harm”? Only if we lie to them.

Bucket List?

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I love movies. I really do. But I just went through a list of all the Best Picture Academy Award winners, and I’m appalled at how few I’ve seen. So I’m wondering whether I should make seeing the rest of them the beginning of a Bucket List.

The Broadway Melody Of 1929: I’m pretty sure I’ve seen this on TV.

Grand Hotel: I’ve definitely seen this on TV.

It Happened One Night: I’ve seen bits of this so many times, but have I ever seen it start to finish? I don’t think so.

Mutiny On The Bounty: I’ve seen this on TV.

Gone With The Wind: Have seen this on TV. May have seen it on the big screen in a revival many years ago. Answer hazy; try again later.

Rebecca: I’ve seen this many times on TV. Love it.

How Green Was My Valley: I saw this many years ago on TV, probably with commercials and maybe cut. Should see.

Casablanca: I’ve seen this on the big screen in a revival. I’m not as big a fan as a lot of people are.

Going My Way: Have seen on TV.

The Best Years Of Our Lives: I have tried to watch this, on TV, more than once. I can’t; it’s too depressing.

Hamlet: Have seen, I think in a college class.

An American In Paris: Have seen on TV.

The Greatest Show On Earth: Saw it on the big screen when it was released.

From Here To Eternity: Have seen on TV.

Around The World In 80 Days: Saw on the big screen when it was released.

Ben-Hur: Saw it on the big screen when it was released.

West Side Story: I don’t think I saw this when it was released, but maybe I did. I have seen bits of it so many times, I can’t be sure whether I have seen the whole thing.

Lawrence Of Arabia: Saw it on the big screen when it was released. Thought it would never end.

Tom Jones: Saw it on the big screen when it was released. Wonderfully naughty for a young Catholic girl.

My Fair Lady: Have seen on TV.

The Sound Of Music: Saw on the big screen when it was released.

A Man For All Seasons: Saw on the big screen when it was released, and on video numerous times since. One of my favorite films.

Saw all these on the big screen when they were released–

Midnight Cowboy

The French Connection

The Godfather

The Sting

Rocky

Annie Hall: I see what’s good about it, but I don’t like it because I so dislike the character of Annie Hall.

Amadeus

Out Of Africa: Love the sound track.

Titanic

Gladiator

A Beautiful Mind

The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King: Another one I thought would never end.

The Departed

No Country For Old Men

When I look at how many war movies are on the Best Picture list, I rethink the Bucket List thing, because I don’t like war movies and for many years have not watched them.

An Old Broad’s Point of View

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(Yes, I call myself an “old broad.” I consider it an honorable status.)

The future matters more than the present. The present matters more than the past.

Old white men, your power is the past. It no longer matters. Give it up.

Old white women, old women of color, old men of color, your chance at power is the past. It no longer matters. Give it up.

The future belongs to those who will live in it, those who will have to solve the problems we have created, or die trying. It belongs to our daughters and sons, our nephews and nieces, our grandchildren and students, the kids down the street and on the other side of the tracks.

Who, Me, a Blogger?

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I’ve decided that I want a blog where I can write about things other than the ranting and posting of links I generally do on Facebook and that is different from Live Journal–which to me has always felt more like a “journal” than a “blog,” but please don’t ask what I mean by that. If I ever figure it out, I’ll write about it here or there!

Onward.

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