After that title, I’ve got nothing.
- My friend Sandy died on December 29, 2018.
- My grandson turned three on the 27th.
- Sandy and I had in common a grandson and a granddaughter.
- The grandson’s birthday party was yesterday on the 30th.
- Sandy’s funeral will be on January 12th.
- We are all of us, living and dead on the third planet from the sun in a galaxy on the outer edge of the Milky Way; Though we hardly ever think about it.
Our grandson’s birthday party was at one of those community spaces you can rent. It was wild and crazy, kids running around shrieking. It put me in mind of how human beings at a certain age can be dropped into a group and create culture and language and despite differing vocabularies and maybe appearances “fit in” by just joining the fray. As they went screeching about I thought of them rushing through the tall grass to flush out foul or careening to an undiscovered country while chasing something, or fleeing something.
So, I find myself, in all my sadness and in all my joy, thinking:
What blame is there in this life when we are all tumbling through space and time only trying to find a hand to hold?
What praise is there when all our consequences are rendered into nothingness except for this:
We have loved and been loved.
I was riding my bike to Value Village (okay how GREEN is that?) and I saw a man picking apples from a tree with one of those long pole apple picker things and he gave me a bag! Not Far From the Tree doesn’t pick fruit in Scarborough, one of the many ways Scarborough is shunned by the Smoke, (note to self: get over it), but this guy told me he drove to their office and donated a bunch of apples anyway! I am making a savoury pie of ground turkey and green apples this morning before it gets too hot!
I got in an argument when I was a kid about whether a certain plant was poison ivy. I was certain it was a Trillium that was not yet flowering. “So rub your face in it!” was her response. I did. I was wrong. Boy was I wrong.
We all hate finding out we are wrong. We might enjoy the humiliation of someone else, especially a blow hard being proven wrong or laugh at the slap-stick that a wrong premise can lead a character to repeat over and over. We recognize it because we have all known that often uncomfortable realization.
The thing about being wrong, as Kathryn Schulz author of “Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error” points out, it feels just like being right. Until we find out we are wrong we can feel pretty good.
Then, after we realize we are wrong we might continue to act as if we are right because we think we have too much to lose by making such an admission.
On the other hand we can believe that they are so wrong we have to bring them to justice, or to the court of public opinion, or just remind them, frequently. We can even feel pleasure from this punishing of others for their stumbles. It is unfortunate because we will be wrong again too.
Being wrong is part of being human. How a character in a fiction deals with the realization and all its ramifications can drive a story but in real life, it is an opportunity for us to learn and grow as a human being, and in real life we get lots of opportunities. Lucky thing because learning to be an adult human being is what your all too human life is about. It really is.
I don’t think I agree with Mr. Sedaris when he says:
Though there’s an industry built on telling you otherwise, there are few real joys to middle age. The only perk I can see is that, with luck, you’ll acquire a guest room.
and as per usual I read the line incorrectly at first as “There ARE A FEW real joys”. Ooops. There are many draw-backs to aging but I have found there are a few, very real joys. Acquiring a guest room speaks of many things, financial things, years of acquiring security, home and also friends. These things are indeed things to be pleased about. But the greatest joys I am finding, and I am past middle-age, are in being less observed and more observing, needing less and appreciating more, and feeling less expectation (and maybe more love).
These days I am having very wonderful conversations sometimes on public transit with people who I would probably never have had an opportunity to talk to previously in my life. I am not sure why this is happening more often but it might be that I am not always looking at the floor and listening to a podcast or reading a book or sleeping or avoiding eye contact, but I also think it is because I am over sixty, completely non-threatening and usually, if I am going somewhere, pretty happy.
I am at a point in my life where I can contribute a bit to those in my life but no one is entirely dependent on me. While I am hardly noticed unless it looks like I might need to sit down, I can notice all sorts of things.
A week ago I ended up talking with a woman at length, a bus and two subways worth, after an unleased dog ran at the fence to the school yard his owner had let him run in, barking rather ferociously at her. (I tend to be really scared of running dogs since having been bitten). I wanted to calm her (and myself) so I said something like, “Scary huh?” She said she had a lot of experience with dogs growing up in Jamaica and she had a heavy purse. 😉
We talked about dogs, she likes them, I don’t much, and cats, she doesn’t like them, I do, and children and being grandmothers and what each of us thinks is the most important thing to learn (my favourite question). Along the way I mentioned that I had an auntie who had always made me feel special. We were discussing the importance for children to have a safe person who will always accept them and give them space to just be children, “like grandparents do” we said in unison.
I got to my stop on the subway after a long and wonderful conversation, learning her age and history and family and her beliefs while sharing mine. We were holding hands by this time. She said, “What is your name?” I told her and asked her for her name. “Opal” she said.
That was the name of my favourite auntie!
I find a lot of joy at my age.
I have spent a fair amount of time during my life being told that nobody wants to hear any of my crazy ideas. Maybe some click counting software figures out my interests and then throws out thinly veiled advertisments for those products that are sort of in-line with said interests making me believe that those crazy ideas are mainstream, but I resist falling for it. I really do. If I have learned anything in sixty years it is that I am not popular, I am not mainstream. I don’t mean that I am counter-culture either, or fringe or edgy. I am annoying. So I stopped going on and on about composting when I was at a parties years ago.
But it seems compost is a good subject for casual conversation. Sheesh. When will I ever NOT be a social pariah?
Call me “Sir”. As Supreme Being I Decree:
- Every seat in government has to be co-occupied, job shared so they can have a life while being involved in governance. That way, looking after the kids, the pets, the community garden, or community market, is part of their lives; so they can experience things that are about being a human being and not just an ambitious grasping jerk. Does that mean things will take longer to get done? Maybe, but they won’t take as long as fixing fuck ups! Like war, like bad legislation, like inequity, like sanctioned discrimination, like really bad ideas. I heard they are doing this somewhere, Iceland or Greenland, or Paradise Island…
- Anyone who is in a position of authority must be referred to as “Sir” regardless of thier gender.
- Queen Elizabeth the first (not our Queen Elizabeth, the zoo creature and her litter of baby zoo creatures) made a rule that one tree for every 100 acres every where in England had to be maintained. (She needed mature trees for building ships to fight Spain…) We can do that! We have surpassed Tudor England with Good Ideas We Can Do THAT.
- We will always have problems when laws and personal freedoms conflict, but lets face it, people are often jerks. They gripe about everything. Even a free lunch. This planet gives us a free lunch when it comes to air and water but we constantly ruin it! So these things have to be legislated up the yin yang. Because as I said, jerks.
- Corporations, and I heard they are now considered persons, can be HORRIBLE jerks. They need rules to govern them, rules up the whazoo. Corporations don’t need thier own armies. Nope. They can’t be allowed to go into a country and then build a fort with “private security”. If they are not benefiting in a direct way the people who live there so that the people there have an investment in their presence, they are breaking international law. Period. Saying you are building a school for the local population and then teaching them to be domestic servants in the hotel you are putting up (totally bulldozing over the local population and their needs) is NOT building a school. Unless a gulag is a school. Time was, people welcomed trade. But when its about flim flam, nobody welcomes them. Bad for business really is about bad for people, OTHERWISE IT’S ABOUT BAD FOR BULLSHIT AND THEFT.
- And we need gun laws, MORE OF THEM, because, again, people can jerks. Lets face it, many jerks are alive today because there wasn’t a gun handy at the time and I would like to think that where there is life there is hope. We might shop at “Jerks r us”, but we don’t want to live there. Or die there. I realized the other day that there are so many mass shooting in the United States that now they catagorize them. “Church mass shootings, school mass shootings, Walmart mass shootings…” Sheesh.
- Taking a life is not a good thing. It will never stop happening but it should not be a reason for celebration, ever. It should not be the object of any game. The enjoyment of violence is not something we want to encourage. It is not how we navigate towards our objectives as human beings on this planet, and anyone who enjoys causing pain and suffering is to be considered damaged, possibly ill/sick and should be denied employment where violence and abuse would be likely, i.e. the police force, the army and probably some sports. I recommend cross stitch for violent people. They can design whatever violent scene or sentiment they like but it has to be rendered in cross stitch. I know you are thinking that these are the jobs where we want violent people because “the enemy” is ruthless, bla bla bla, but I’m Supreme Being in this make-believe scenario remember? Nobody gets to have fun killing. End of discussion. Now go and work on your sampler.*
- As for sports, I find quilting pretty intense so I am no authority but I think it might change the game if commentors made comments like: “Youre right Jim! And that impressive body check he took will mean he will be ten times more likely to suffer early dementia, depression and suicide!” “Danger pay Rex?” “Well I say, God Bless them, they give us our careers Jim.” “Hahahahahahaha”. The camera can pick out a child in the bleachers who has seen the results of Repetitive Head Injury Syndrome in a parent. 😦 I would imagine competitive quilting and cross stitch would start to look pretty good. Okay, that’s maybe cruel. Cross stitch is hard to do.
I just realized that all these things are pretty much the things I would have decreed when I was six years old. So, just in case your were wondering, no it’s not likely I will ever succeed in becoming “Supreme Being” so relax. I mean, really, I can’t think of anything more unlikely happening…oh wait, ick, this is awkward…
Finally, it was argued recently that things are changing for the better. I don’t know. Talk is cheap. Only when we meet in the field of our own vulnerability, aware of this vibrant and improbable event that is life, when we are just there, not in an abstraction, but in the terrifing, liberating beauty of it, does anything change.
If not now? When?
Happy New Year!
* It seems there really is a program to teach inmate to quilt.