3584– Tuesday, July 9, 2019 –  My Four Apocalyptic Horsemen: Fear, Cynicism, Despair and Pain

It has been nineteen days since my last blog.  I see that by my actuarial timetable, I now have 3584 days to live.  I have used up 64 days of my life since I started this “new” blog series.  I wonder if most writers think about the usefulness of their writing or what their writing has accomplished.  I was on a short vacation with my wife for ten of the last nineteen days, but I have found it very difficult to get back into my writing mode.  I question whether or not anything I have ever said makes one iota of difference in the world.  Do I write just to hear myself write?   I am not a person overly prone to depression but every so often I just feel like nothing is worth saying, doing or living for.

I recently wrote to an older friend of mine who has become very cynical and obstreperous in his old age.  I told him that I believed aging had four “Apocalyptic Horsemen” that we must contend with:

  1. Fear
  2. Cynicism
  3. Despair
  4. Pain

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I notice that many older people seem more fearful.  Some have said that ever since 9/11, America has become a nation of fearful inhabitants. We seem to embrace militarism and “heroes” to a degree I think never seen before in our nation.  Many people I know will not travel or go anyplace because “it is too dangerous.”  Fear pervades our thinking about politics these days and we seem willing to embrace demagoguery if it will keep us safe.  Benjamin Franklin said that: “Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

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I also told my friend that perhaps my four horsemen were not shared by all of my age cohort.  When it comes to cynicism, I confess to having always been somewhat of a cynic.  I am very good at finding what is wrong with things, but I have a harder time finding what is right.  Theodore Roosevelt when commenting on the plethora of journalists who were muckraking during the early 1900’s made the following statement: “In Pilgrims Progress the Man with the Muckrake is set forth as an example of him whose vision is fixed on carnal instead of spiritual things… Yet he also typifies the man who in this life consistently refuses to see aught that is lofty and fixes his eyes with solemn intentness only on that which is vile and debasing.”  I would not want to be remembered as the guy who always saw what is wrong with the world, but I would also like to avoid being a Pollyanna.  Here again is the Golden Mean necessitating us to balance extremes and find the happy medium.

despair

Despair and depression seem to both suggest a feeling of hopelessness.  People are inherently greedy thus the world will never change.  People are self-centered, short-sighted, cognitively challenged, apathetic, etc., etc.  Easy to find reasons to give up.  Easy to believe that I cannot make a difference or that anything I do or say or write is meaningless.  We look for evidence that we are making a difference and evidence, like the truth, seems to be ephemeral and elusive.  I sometimes think I am too focused on searching for meaning as though it were the Holy Grail.  I have always thought or heard that life without meaning is worthless.  Viktor Frankl wrote an entire book on “Man’s Search for Meaning.”  He noted that: “Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.”

pain

Finally, we come to the icing on the cake:  Pain.  Young people can and will suffer pains as they go through life.  But for most younger people, pain is not a constant in their lives but only a temporary annoyance.  For the majority of older people, pain is a constant companion.  We wake up each morning, wondering what part of us will hurt, or whether or not we will make it through the day without pain in some part of our bodies.  Pain tempers our thoughts, our behaviors and our actions.  How much can we accomplish today before the pain sets in?  Should we go to see a doctor, or should we grin and bear it?

I am loath to include any quotes on pain since so many of them are telling us the benefits of pain.  Joseph Campbell intoned: “Find a place inside where there’s joy and the joy will burn out the pain.”  I wonder how much physical pain Mr. Campbell had while he was finding his joy?  I have not yet come to believe that pain is a stimulus for anything.  The old adage by Franklin that: “No pain, no gain” has too often been used by morons exhorting others to ignore their pains and suffer in silence.  For older people, pains do not go away.  We deal with pain because we must.  To give in to pain is to give up but to ignore pain is often impossible.

There you have it.  My four “Apocalyptic Horsemen:” Fear, Cynicism, Despair and Pain.  On any given day, I am confronting one of them.  Some days, I just want to crawl in a hole and hide.  Other days, I bound out of bed excited at the possibilities that lie inherent in a new day.  What are your horsemen?  How do you deal with them?

 

3603– Thursday, June 20, 2019 –  When Politics and Ethics Collide!

In the past twenty years, the Republicans have gerrymandered enough districts in the United States to give them a decided edge in voting.  In the past twenty years, they have manipulated the Supreme Court to pack it with Republican leaning judges.  Now under Trump, the Republicans are trying to pack the Federal courts with judges favorable to their conservative right-wing policies.  What, you may well ask, have the Democrats been doing all of this time?

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The answer to the above question is fairly simply.  No, they did not do nothing.  Worse, they supported the first Iraq war.  They supported the second Iraq war.  They supported the war in Afghanistan and also Kuwait.  Now, I suppose they will support the first Iran war.  But you say, I am not being fair, it takes money to fight the Republicans.  Yes, I think about money a lot.  Just yesterday Gillibrand sent me a request for money.  The day before it was Sanders.  The day before that it was Biden.  I suspect I will get monetary requests from the other twenty or so Presidential candidates.

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I know, I know, I know, it does not matter who gets in along as they can beat Chump.  However, surprise, surprise.  I can live with Chump for another four years. But, if it means I must forget integrity, ethics and morality all so I can elect “ANYONE” who can beat Chump than screw the Democrats.

Frankly, I don’t give a damn about Chump.  I care about a system which is so focused on the short-term, that that they miss the long term.  Think about it.  What will happen to the money that the losing twenty other Democratic candidates raise.  Who will get this money?  You want to know:

  • TV
  • Advertisers
  • PR firms
  • Publicists
  • Consultants
  • Media firms
  • Political Advisers

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Recent data show the following to date fund raising for seven of the candidates.  Date is June 19, 2019.

 

If we assume that each candidate will need to raise about 15 million dollars to run for office, that means that 20 candidates X 15 million dollars each will be spent on these Democratic hopefuls in their quest to defeat Chump.  This equals 300 million dollars.  This is a very conservative estimate.  Is it just me or does anyone think this is ridiculous? And this is just about the money.  What about the time and effort that will be wasted on and during this idiotic run to the primary by twenty supposedly intelligent people.  This is not a thoughtful planned effort to select the best candidate.  Even a three ring circus has more thoughtfulness and coordination than this effort by the Democrats to select a candidate.

I ask you, what if this money was put into local efforts to defeat conservative right-wing candidates across the country?  What kind of a strategy does the Democratic party have when they plan to win a battle but lose the war?  Spend a lot of money to elect one candidate but lose thousands of seats across the country.  I don’t know about you.  I don’t know about other Democrats.  I don’t know about other people that detest Chump as much as I do.  I do know the following.  There are things that matter more to me than just defeating Chump.  Here are the principles that will keep me focused during the Democratic debacle and the upcoming election:

  1. I will only support a candidate with integrity and morality. Not because they “may be” able to beat Chump.
  2. I will only support a candidate who has a realistic vision and hope for the future of America.
  3. I will not support a party that thinks money, money, money is all that is necessary to win the day.
  4. I will not support a party that seems to lack spine, conviction and purpose.
  5. I will not support a party of morons that have no consistent plan or direction.

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I would rather see Chump get in again for another four years then give up these five principles.  And do you want to know why?

Because, on the day that the above principles cease to matter, then I am no better or different than the people who are running this country today.

“In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics.’ All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia.” —  George Orwell

 

 

3605– Tuesday, June 18, 2019 –  To Live in Gloom or in Perpetual Optimism, That is the Question!

Sometimes I don’t know whether to be depressed or ecstatic these days.  Yesterday, the library group started discussing suicide.  I had not realized that about a dozen states including the District of Columbia now permit doctor assisted suicide. The talk turned to different methods of suicide and what the various pros and cons of each were.  I interjected with the comment that “It is bad enough to have to hear continuous talk of the aches and pains that we all share, but now I have to hear about suicide.”  As usual, we gradually drifted off this subject and turned to such important topics as baseball, Frederic Family Days and when Trump would invade Iran and plunge us into another war.

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If you talk to any old people, you will find that many of us are happy to be alive each day and the thrill of being “still upright.”  On the other hand, it is easy to deny the everyday difficulties of the infirmaries, operations and new conditions that routinely beset one past the age of 70 or perhaps younger.  The reality is that we of the aged category do not age like “fine wine.”  Similar to knowing when to hold them and when to fold them, each day brings a choice of attitude along the lines of “knowing when to be positive and knowing when to face the negative and gloomy realities of growing old.”  To be a Pollyanna or to be a Cassandra, that is the question?

What attitude will you have today?  Can you maintain a façade of enthusiasm, passion and zest for life or will you be the person who is pessimistic, gloomy and defeatist?  Easy to say that one should be happy and exuberant about life.  Not so easy if you have been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, heart disease or macular degeneration.  Not so easy, if getting up in the morning is painful or going to the bathroom by yourself is impossible.  Raging against the dying of the light can be easier said than done.

It is not pleasant to talk of these things.  It is even more unpleasant to have to face them in your life.  But the most difficult thing about growing old is having to face these things in the life of your loved one.  As Jesus said: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”  Heroes and heroines lay down their lives in war, disasters and emergencies and many the man and woman who has.

But none of us can substitute our health for the health and well being of our friends, relatives and loved ones.  Inexorably, we watch one by one as they become sick, infirmed, pain ridden and diseased.  Helpless, we do the best we can to ease their lives and to help them cope with each day.  There may be no more difficult task for the aged to face than that of caregiver.  Would that we could but lay down our lives for the lives of our loved ones.

As we age, we will make the transition from caregiver to care-receiver.  Caregivers and care receivers, we will all become sooner or later. They say it is better to give than to receive and many of us will find out that it is perhaps easier to give than to receive.  Nevertheless, neither role is one that any of us would have chosen in our younger days.  I think most of the older people I know are ill prepared for either role.  Somehow, we tend to close our eyes to the harshness of aging.  Denial knocks on our doorsteps every day.  It asks us to ignore our aches and pains or to forget to take our pills or to skip our health exams or to eat more junk food than we know is good for us.  We avoid looking too closely in the mirror for fear that we will see our shrunken disheveled bodies.  When we do go to the doctor to complain of some new pain or infirmary, we are frequently given the advice “Well, you know you are getting old and may just have to live with it.”  Like we have forgotten that we are getting old.

Did I wake up gloomy or ecstatic today?  Too much salt or too much pepper?  The secret of life always seems to have been balance.  It is said that the Acropolis was engraved on top with the worlds “Know thy self” and on the bottom with the words “All things in balance.”  I guess it should be that way with aging.  Too much gloominess or too much optimism can both be bad for the liver.

“There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love.  When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.” — Sophia Loren

 

 

Rally Round the Flag Boys and Girls. Time to Attack IRAN!

I am re-posting this information which is from Wikipedia.  I have not written one word of this blog, but I think it is important enough to post.  The President of the USA may now be using this tactic with IRAN.  It has been used before and Americans will fall prey to it again unless people are aware of the tactic and stand up to it.

Estoy re-publicando esta información que es de Wikipedia. No he escrito una palabra de este blog, pero creo que es lo suficientemente importante como para publicar. El presidente de los EE. UU. Ahora puede estar usando esta táctica con IRAN. Se ha usado antes y los estadounidenses volverán a ser presa de él a menos que la gente esté consciente de la táctica y la haga frente.

我正在重新發布來自維基百科的這些信息。 我沒有寫過這個博客的一個詞,但我認為發布這個詞非常重要。 美國總統現在可能正在與伊朗使用這種策略。 它已經被使用過了,除非人們意識到這種策略並且能夠堅持下去,否則美國人將再次成為它的犧牲品。

Ich poste diese Informationen, die aus Wikipedia stammen, erneut. Ich habe kein Wort dieses Blogs geschrieben, aber ich denke, es ist wichtig genug, um etwas zu posten. Der Präsident der USA könnte diese Taktik jetzt mit dem IRAN anwenden. Es wurde schon früher benutzt und die Amerikaner werden wieder Opfer davon werden, es sei denn, die Leute sind sich der Taktik bewusst und halten sich dagegen.

Rally ’round the flag effect

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President Bush approval rating from 2001 to 2006. Spikes in approval coincide with the September 11 attacks, the invasion of Iraq, and the capture of Saddam Hussein.

The rally ’round the flag effect (or syndrome) is a concept used in political science and international relations to explain increased short-run popular support of the President of the United States during periods of international crisis or war.[1]Because rally ’round The Flag effect can reduce criticism of governmental policies, it can be seen as a factor of diversionary foreign policy.[1]

Mueller’s definition[edit]

Political scientist John Mueller suggested the effect in 1970, in a landmark paper called “Presidential Popularity from Truman to Johnson”. He defined it as coming from an event with three qualities:[2]

  1. “Is international”
  2. “Involves the United States and particularly the President directly”
  3. “Specific, dramatic, and sharply focused”

Causes and durations[edit]

Since Mueller’s original theories, two schools of thought have emerged to explain the causes of the effect. The first, “The Patriotism School of Thought” holds that in times of crisis, the American public sees the President as the embodiment of national unity. The second, “The Opinion Leadership School” believes that the rally emerges from a lack of criticism from members of the opposition party, most often in the United States Congress. If opposition party members appear to support the president, the media has no conflict to report, thus it appears to the public that all is well with the performance of the president.[4]

The two theories have both been criticized, but it is generally accepted that the Patriotism School of thought is better to explain causes of rallies, while the Opinion Leadership School of thought is better to explain duration of rallies.[3] It is also believed that the lower the presidential approval rating before the crisis, the larger the increase will be in terms of percentage points because it leaves the president more room for improvement. For example, Franklin Roosevelt only had a 12% increase in approval from 72% to 84% following the Attack on Pearl Harbor, whereas George W. Bush had a 39% increase from 51% to 90% following the September 11 attacks.[5]

Another theory about the cause of the effect is believed to be embedded in the US Constitution. Unlike in other countries, the constitution makes the President both head of government and head of state. Because of this, the president receives a temporary boost in popularity because his Head of State role gives him symbolic importance to the American people. However, as time goes on his duties as Head of Government require partisan decisions that polarize opposition parties and diminish popularity. This theory falls in line more with the Opinion Leadership School.

Due to the highly statistical nature of presidential polls, University of Alabama political scientist John O’Neal has approached the study of rally ’round the flag using mathematics. O’Neal has postulated that the Opinion Leadership School is the more accurate of the two using mathematical equations. These equations are based on quantified factors such as the number of headlines from the New York Times about the crisis, the presence of bipartisan support or hostility, and prior popularity of the president.[6]

Political Scientist from The University of California Los Angeles, Matthew A. Baum found that the source of a rally ’round the flag effect is from independents and members of the opposition party shifting their support behind the President after the rallying effect. Baum also found that when the country is more divided or in a worse economic state then the rally effect is larger. This is because more people who are against the president before the rallying event switch to support him afterwards. When the country is divided before the rallying event there is a higher potential increase in support for the President after the rallying event.[7]

In a study by Political Scientist Terrence L. Chapman and Dan Reiter, rallies in Presidential approval ratings were found to be bigger when there was U.N. Security Council supported Militarized interstate disputes (MIDs). Having U.N. Security Council support was found to increase the rally effect in presidential approval by 8 to 9 points compared to when there wasn’t U.N. Security Council support.[5]

According to a 2019 study of ten countries in the period 1990-2014, there is evidence of a rally-around-the-flag effect early on in an intervention with casualties (in at least the first year) but voters begin to punish the governing parties after 4.5 years.[8]

Historical examples[edit]

The effect has been examined within the context of nearly every major foreign policy crisis since World War II. Some notable examples:

  • Cuban Missile Crisis: According to Gallup polls, President John F. Kennedy‘s approval rating in early October 1962 was at 61%. By November, after the crisis had passed, Kennedy’s approval rose to 74%. The spike in approval peaked in December 1962 at 76%. Kennedy’s approval rating slowly decreased again until it reached the pre-crisis level of 61% in June 1963.[3][9]
  • Iran hostage crisis: According to Gallup polls, President Jimmy Carter quickly gained 26 percentage points, jumping from 32 to 58% approval following the initial seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran in November 1979. However, Carter’s handling of the crisis caused popular support to decrease, and by November 1980 Carter had returned to his pre-crisis approval rating.[10]
  • Operation Desert Storm (Persian Gulf War): According to Gallup polls, President George H. W. Bush was rated at 59% approval in January 1991, but following the success of Operation Desert Storm, Bush enjoyed a peak 89% approval rating in February 1991. From there, Bush’s approval rating slowly decreased, reaching the pre-crisis level of 61% in October 1991.[3][11]
  • Following the September 11 attacks in 2001, President George W. Bush received an unprecedented increase in his approval rating. On September 10, Bush had a Gallup Poll rating of 51%. By September 15, his approval rate had increased by 34 percentage points to 85%. Just a week later, Bush was at 90%, the highest presidential approval rating ever. Over a year after the attacks occurred, Bush still received higher approval than he did before 9/11 (68% in November 2002). Both the size and duration of Bush’s popularity after 9/11 are believed to be the largest of any post-crisis boost. Many people believe that this popularity gave Bush a mandate and eventually the political leverage to begin the War in Iraq.[3][12]
  • Death of Osama bin Laden: According to Gallup polls, President Barack Obama received a 6% jump in his Presidential approving ratings, jumping from 46% in the three days before the mission (April 29 – May 1) to a 52% in the 3 days after the mission (May 2–4).[13] The rally effect didn’t last long, as Obama’s approval ratings were back down to 46% by June 30.

Controversy and Fears of Misuse[edit]

There are fears that the president will misuse the rally ’round the flag effect. These fears come from the “diversionary theory of war” in which the President creates an international crisis in order to distract from domestic affairs and to increase their approval ratings through a rally ’round the flag effect. The fear associated with this theory is that a President can create international crisis to avoid dealing with serious domestic issues or to increase their approval rating when it begins to drop.[14]

“Of course the people don’t want war. But after all, it’s the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it’s always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it’s a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship.  Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders.  That is easy.  All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger.”  — Herman Goering at the Nuremberg trials 

 

3609– Friday, June 14, 2019 – Citizens: Dare, Dare Again, Always Dare!

A number of years ago (1998), I was hired by the Metropolitan Council in Minnesota as a Principle Planner II.  My job was to help the various units at the council to improve productivity and service.  I had been an independent Process Improvement consultant for the previous 13 years.  My new job meant a study paycheck and less travel.  It was a good way to get out of consulting and into more regular employment.  The people at the council were hardworking and dedicated.  Nevertheless, as Dr. Deming always said, “hard work guarantees nothing.”

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In a short while, I found more waste and useless expenditure of time and taxpayer money than I could have imagined possible.  Even though as a consultant, I had often worked with government agencies from the US Navy to the City of Minneapolis, I was astounded at the staggering amount of fruitless effort throughout the organization and other state agencies.  I had become a liaison for the Metropolitan Council to help coordinate quality improvement agencies for a joint committee that included the Met Council and members of various other state agencies.  I frequently came home and exclaimed to Karen: “My god, if the average citizen saw the waste and stupidity that I see every day, they would grab a rifle or pitchfork and march on City Hall.”  I was dead wrong.

It has been twenty years and the waste and lack of accountability in government is still appalling and “no one is marching on City Hall.”  I often doubt if anyone really cares.  There is an old saying which goes like this:

Businesses get the unions they deserve,

Industries get the regulations they deserve, and

People get the governments they deserve.

 The lack of transparency in government is bewildering.  Transparency and accountability go hand in hand.  However, many cities, states and towns fail to publish their complete financial records on-line.  Yet no one demands to see the records of government spending.

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“Democracy depends on an informed electorate, but due to current practices in both accounting and budgeting, the true financial health of a city can be obscured, and citizens are deceived, or at best misled.  Without access to truthful, timely, and transparent information, how can citizens be knowledgeable participants in their governments?” —  Truth in Accounting

It seems that everyone you talk to is willing to condemn the cupidity and incompetence of most of our political leaders.  Yet, such criticism begs the question: “Not why did we elect these people, but why do we continue to reelect them?”

“Congressional stagnation is an American political theory that attempts to explain the high rate of incumbency re-election to the United States House of Representatives.  In recent years this rate has been well over 90 per cent, with rarely more than 5-10 incumbents losing their House seats every election cycle.”Congressional stagnation in the United States

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These high rates of reelection defy logic since they come at a time when trust in government is at an all-time low.  “We the people” grouse and complain but the fact remains that “we the people” do not demand accountability and we do not enforce accountability.  We elect leaders who soon feel little or no need to represent their constituents but more likely never felt the electorate really mattered in the first place.  Too many of our leaders are fully aware that they owe their first loyalty to the lobbyists and corporations that funded them and not to the “joe or jane” on the street that simply cast a ballot for them.

“Public trust in the government remains near historic lows.  Only 17% of Americans today say they can trust the government in Washington to do what is right ‘just about always’ (3%) or ‘most of the time’ (14%).”  — Public Trust in Government: 1958-2019

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I have repeatedly said that we need government.  It would be foolish to think that a community, let alone a nation, could function without a government.  Yet, I can also accept the words of Edmund Burke that “The government that governs best is the government that governs least.”  I do not say throw out government, but I do say “we the people” have to start making our votes and voices heard.  Too many of our so called “silent majority” simply do not give a damn.

If you don’t give a damn, you will get the government you deserve.  It would seem that this bit of wisdom has become a reality for most Americans.

PS:

I just watched Jon Stewart’s heroic and passionate speech to the House Judiciary on behalf of 9/11 Responders.  This speech will go down in history as a testimony to the difference citizens can make in government if we dare to speak out.  Stewart echoes my call for accountability in his speech.  See:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y2QMqsNvWuc

“Sick and dying, they brought themselves down here to speak to no one.  Shameful. It’s an embarrassment to the country and it’s a stain on this institution.  And you should be ashamed of yourselves for those that aren’t here.  But you won’t be because accountability doesn’t appear to be something that occurs in this chamber.” — Jon Stewart

 

 

 

 

 

 

3611– Wednesday, June 12, 2019 –  Fear of Death and Dying

 Have your ever cursed out an “old” driver for going to slow?  If so, I am sure that you are not alone.  I was once one of those who had no patience for the old folks poking along doing less than the speed limit on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.  Karen would always remind me that “You will be old someday.”  I did not believe it.  The problem is that I am now an old driver.  I probably drive slower and more cautiously then I did years ago, but so as not to offend anyone, I usually set my cruise control about 5 mph over the speed limit.  I figure it is too slow to get a ticket but too fast to piss off anyone who hates slow old folks behind the wheel.  Of course, my logic sucks.  I am beset by mortals who obviously have both no fear of death and no fear of getting a ticket.   Why are people in such a hurry today?  Where the hell is everyone going?

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The subject of my blog today concerns the poor old guys and gals who want to live a few years longer.  One would think that at age 70 or greater, the elderly would be reckless and carefree.  After all, I have had 72 good years on this earth, why should I fret if I die tomorrow.  The strange truth is that the older we get, the more cautious we get.  It is almost like thinking that if I give up smoking, drinking, motorcycles, wild parties and wild women or wild men, I will be able to live longer.  I doubt seriously if the time to be safe is after age 70.  It seems to me that logically, the time to be safety conscious would be when you were young and had many potential years ahead of you.  Why be safe, when your heart or brain might blow out tomorrow.  This is a paradox that I do not understand, but I observe it all around me.

I have friends who don’t want to travel because it might be dangerous.  I have friends who have concealed carry permits because they might get mugged and this even in Frederic.  I have a daughter who has security lights all around her house and is planning to install a security camera.  I have friends who live in gated communities with security guards.  I have friends who will not drive in the city or at night.

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In each case above, my friends would not have thought twice about it a few years ago.  But something happens as we age.  Suddenly, we worry.  We worry more about things that in the past would not have given us a glimmer of concern.  Now we want to know what the weather will be like before we go out.  We want to know if a neighborhood is safe before we drive though it.  We want to know if a chosen vacation spot is safe to visit.

Why again I ask, would anyone with so few years left to live, worry about their safety?  They say that growing old is not for the faint of heart.  I can see why.  The older we get; the scarier things are.  Is it simply a bit of DNA that ordains old people should die safely in their beds?

A little caution as we age is no doubt common sense.  Old people are more brittle and less flexible.  We do not bounce when we fall, and we can no longer put one foot behind our heads while standing on the other foot doing a Yoga posture (not that I ever could).  We do not have as much balance and we should rightfully be staying off of high ladders and roofs.  We take more time to mend and with less time left on this earth, we don’t want to spend our last days in a cast or hospital room.  We will probably end up in a hospital room anyway, but I doubt it will be because we did anything foolish like bungee jumping or wing suit diving.

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Aging, for many of us, will be a process of pulling our blankets ever closer and ever tighter.  The days of throwing off the blankets in wild abandon and streaking naked through our gardens are probably over.  Somewhere between the two extremes we must find an accommodation with growing old.  To die or not to die is not the question.  The question is how to die.  I always liked the quote in Julius Caesar by Shakespeare “Cowards die many times before their death, the valiant never taste of death but once.”  Or to paraphrase Patrick Henry, “I know not what course others may take, but give me a party or let me die comfortably in my bed.”

“You can’t possibly be afraid of death, really, you can only be afraid of life.”  — Carl R. Rogers

3613– Monday, June 10, 2019 – Summer, Never Enough Time!

Calvin and Hobbes once described summer as “Never enough time to do all the nothing you want.”  Sometimes life seems the same way.  The older you get the faster time and things flow around, over and under you.  I have been back from Arizona almost six weeks now and after fixing the car, truck, yard, lawn mower and house, we seem to have skipped spring and went right into summer.  It was 85 degrees here yesterday.  I am still waiting to get started on my new business project and trying to motivate myself to be creative, dynamic and inspirational, at least to myself.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to speak to a student club at Metropolitan State University.  A good friend of mine (Israel) is one of the faculty advisers to the club and each month they try to hold some type of event to help the students with both life and school.  Israel noted in his closing comments to the group that he had realized school was more than just teaching subjects but that the students who went on to become successful in life had learned character and coping skills.  Israel asked me to talk to the group.  The subject of my talk was the role that discipline plays in our life.

Wisdom Summit

Discipline is often associated with punishment.  The discipline that I discussed is self-discipline.  I view self-discipline as the commitment and ability to respond to our goals and desires in a meaningful way.  Some people say that discipline is not needed but that motivation is needed. I see things more the other way around.  It takes discipline to become good at anything in life including music, art, sports, dance, acting and business.  It helps if you are passionate about what you are doing.  Karen enjoys playing her dulcimer and practices about an hour each day.  The amazing child prodigy Anke Chen practices five hours a day to play the piano.  She is now eight years old but started playing at four.  When you watch Anke, you see someone having fun and thoroughly enjoying what they are doing.

The problem I had when I was young was not realizing the discipline and dedication it took to become great at anything.  Regardless of how much of a genius you are, regardless of how smart you are or how beautiful you are, without discipline you will eventually fail.  You can survive on pure talent for only so long.  The same goes for beauty and brains.  They will only take you so far.  Look around and you can see the “A list” people who have had life too easy and the only way they can stay on top is with drugs.  Too many great artists and performers have succumbed to the perils of drugs.  Self-discipline is a drug free remedy for a happy and fruitful life.

Now that summer is here, my writing class will start again, although our grand instructor (Dr. Carolyn Wedin) will not be attending due to illness.  Carolyn will very much be there in memory.  Her spirit will hover over each writer and guide us in the use of language and syntax.  Over the years, I have leaned a great deal from these classes about writing and life.

Writing is an art that requires great self-discipline.  There are many days when I don’t feel like writing.  It is not always easy to come up with ideas, words, adjectives, descriptions, narrative, characters, plots, settings and action that will be interesting and unique.  No one wants to hear a story that is boring or mundane.  We read something because it takes us our of our life and puts us into the life of another person.  (Of course, we may also read to learn something.)  We can live vicariously in the character of whomever we are reading about.  Today, you are living in my character.  For a few moments, you are absorbed in my thoughts and feelings and to some degree you know what it is like to be me living in Frederic, Wisconsin, the summer of 2019.

And once upon a time, in a time long ago, two hearts met, and the meeting changed the whole world.

Every time, a writer and a reader meet, it is like two hearts meeting and the world can never be the same again.

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.”  –Anais Nin

 

 

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