Friday, November 25, 2005


I almost went to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade yesterday. I have seen it before, once from the "V.I.P." seats (no thanks to me), but I am now delighted that I didn't. A large balloon, in the shape of an "M.&M.," crashed into a lamp post, causing injuries to two young women. That horrible fate might have been mine. To be crippled for life, is tragic enough. To have to explain that one was injured by a large M.&M. (yellow, chocolate-covered and peanut-like in appearance) is even more humiliating. One should be permitted to eat the gigantic peanut before expiring.

I took a "Turkey Dinner for Four" -- purchased at "Whole Foods" -- which was more like "Turkey Breast for Two-and-a-Half" ($34.00, plus tax!) -- to my mother, who is in her mid-eighties and always insists on doing what people "should" do during holidays. At Easter, I have to dress like a rabbit and bury eggs in the backyard.

My mother is convinced that, in America, there is a "behavior police" to report any failures to celebrate holidays in accordance with the wishes of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Perhaps there really is a "Holiday Observance Authority" or soon will be. It would not surprise me.

I have just provided the Bush Administration with an idea for the next cabinet meeting, a way of identifying Al Quaida's "deep cover" agents, who are bound to be clueless about things like cranberry sauce. In this country, we have an unlimited number of clueless political leaders who know all about cranberry sauce, but not much else. We are fortunate in this regard.

So we ate dinner, laughed and allowed some bonding to take place between grandmother and grandaughter. My mother's life has not been an easy one. These late years have brought a serenity that I did not see before, a peacefulness and acceptance of her fate. She has found some measure of reconciliation with the misfortunes and injustices of her life, even finding her faith again.

I avoid any discussion of genuine difficulties and pains in my life. I do my best to entertain and make her happy. The sight of her grandchildren alone seems to do that. Most of the old people in her building have come to terms with their sufferings. They have accepted their lives -- and in some cases, these are very difficult lives -- and are now concerned to enrich others. They are grateful for one's interest in them. In a youth-obsessed and future-oriented society, most of them have been relegated by their families to the trash heap of forgetfulness.

Many were alone yesterday, not receiving visits from family members. Why should they? After all, we're a very practical people now. What practical "advantage" might there be in visiting poor old people? None. Forget them, let's go to the mall.

In most instances, money and material considerations (except as insurance against becoming a burden to others) interests them very little. So does the business and idle chatter of the world. The bullshit remains the same, they tell me, the names of politicians and crooks (mostly a redundancy in New Jersey), celebrities and athletes change, but that's about it. People continue to do what they've always done -- and will always continue to do. The consensus is that, as you get older, you get more tired of the bullshit.

I spent my time missing someone on Thanksgiving Day, and not allowing it to show. I hope soon to see her again. I saw some moronic television shows. Luckily, my mother's sense of duty does not extend to making me sit through football games. I read a lot and thought about all that I should be grateful for, beginning with my health and the persons in my life. I reflect on where the pain is for me. No surprises there.

As you look in the mirror and imagine your face in old age, think of what that old person that you will become (soon enough!) would wish to say to the younger man or woman that you are today. What warnings will this older version of you wish to communicate to you (or others) now? What explanations will you offer to that person that you will soon turn into for the choices that you made, and are making, that will affect that old person's life? Still smoking? Still drinking? How will you justify your actions to yourself someday?

Your assignment is to see two movies: It's a Wonderful Life, of course, and Somewhere in Time. Also, read the short story "For Esme, With Love and Squalor" by J.D. Salinger (who is the child in that story?). I may as well throw in Oscar Wilde's "The Happy Prince," and take another look at Shakespeare's "Seven Ages of Man" speech from As You Like It.

How do you define childhood and old age? Does learning enter into your definitions? If so, how? What kind of learning? How would you define the term "cultivation of the feelings" or "emotional maturity"? What persons in your life will you wish to speak to or hear from in old age, as you lay dying? What name will be on your lips as draw your final breath in life? What does "Rosebud" mean in Citizen Kane? Why is "feeling" prohibited in the society depicted in Equilibrium?

From Macquarrie's treatise on Existentialism:

If our account of feelings is, up to this point, correct, so that it can be acknowledged that they "attune" us to the world and that at least the more sophisticated feelings are close to reason, then the possibility that feeling may yield some genuine insights having philosophical interest cannot be dismissed out of hand. It could even be the case that this intimate relation to the world through feeling could disclose to us truths concerning the world such as would be quite inaccessible through that mere beholding which characterizes our observation of the world through the senses.



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