The Art of Living and the Impact of Age-September 24, 2006


The Art of Living and the Impact of Age


Richard J. Garfunkel

September 24, 2005




I think getting older causes many of us to compress all of our needs and concerns and therefore they seem more important. It is funny that retired people never have time. It is amazing that my wife and I have time for everything! In fact most of our concerns are less important now. Our health is basically what it is. We can make minor adjustments, for hopefully the better, but eating hamburgers rather than tofu will not shorten our lives at this stage. We have dodged most adult-onset diseases, our physique is what it is, and we are not forced to worry about it as to attract more interest, or to keep our mate. It is not very easy to put on weight or muscle for a very lithe person and it is not easy to lose weight. Therefore get into better habits that we can live with, not unattainable goals. They key is physical and mental balance. But all in all, our lives have peaked, our bills have been paid, our estates will not grow exponentially, our children are educated, grown and on their way. We now worry about a future we cannot control. We, if we are cautious and sensible look to conserve, preserve and to be at equilibrium. Yes, global warming is a concern, for example, and we should probably support more thoughtful people who understand the gravity of such issues. But, in truth, no one really knows the answers. In most cases we see changes daily, in thinking, on almost every subject. One-day butter is no good, the next day it is better than margarine. One day running is great; the next day we read every runner has wrecked his or her knees. 


My mother was always worried about something when she was alive. At 75, or so, as I recall, she was always in a dither about every little thing. I said to her, why are you worrying? “You have lived, you have accomplished almost all you would have wished to do!” Of course she lived almost another quarter century. I said, “It is I who should be worrying, I haven't accomplished yet what I have to do.” Of course this meant that I had to finish raising my kids, getting them off to healthy starts, etc., providing for our security, traveling, seeing, doing! It is the 35 year old that should worry, be concerned, and be more thoughtful. At age 75 one should be more or less careless or carefree, and live, while one has the time, energy, health and good sense. Buy a lot of insurance that will keep the heirs happy in the long run! Enjoy one's time it is always later than one thinks. So after awhile one must learn how to balance rationality with pleasure. As it has been said, “celebrate the good times,” they could, in the future, be few, and far between.


When we were young we had more control, more latitude, more choices and we were truly busier. We could save, if we chose, invest, if we were smart, find new pursuits, new friends, new habits, new hobbies, new liaisons. Now our busyness is more defensive. Keep up the maintenance, the repairs, limiting the losses. But in essence, no more new romance, too risky, no more new horizons and for sure our circle continues to shrink. With that shrinkage obligations drop off. First to disappear are the grandparents, older aunts and uncles, then parents and friends of parents. One's childhood friends go on to other pursuits and we lose interest in others because of politics, religion, pettiness and the like. Our circle is always shrinking, and new friends, without their own “harnesses” are tough to develop. Every one has his/her own entangled obligations. Therefore making new connections and inventing a life of commonality is almost impossible. Maybe that's why shipboard friendships (and romances) are so easy to make and easy to lose of forget. The time is short, the need is urgent, the future is limited if not non-existent. So have fun and live for the moment, because tomorrow, our next reality intrudes. As I write this I realize that each year the limits of mortality intrudes its ugly head. Each year we get closer to zero options. In this same year a number of people I have known, to some degree or another, have been attacked with one life-threatening situation. These of course are my contemporaries. What does that say? It says that count your blessings and love life.


So what is this treadmill path of life? Who are we pleasing? What is our purpose? Most people age along with us. We become the survivors, the inheritors of the land or what are the remains from earlier generations. It’s a finite life. Our contemporary world that surrounds us is so concerned with celebrity and material and not concerned enough with the self-satisfaction of true accomplishment or contribution to the commonweal. Generally I am disappointed with people, but what is new? Are they really bad, inconsiderate, selfish, stupid, venal? No, of course not, but their priorities are intertwined with other exigencies and quite often their needs don't mesh with mine. Sometimes, for a rare moment they do. That is why spur of the moment, serendipitous activity is so worthwhile.


Quite often, after the evening news ends, and right before we switch stations, the television lingers on some celebrity program like “Hollywood Extra.” Then, and there do I get really sick and wish to curse out the network for promulgating such worthless trash. Who gives a good g-ddamn about the lives and loves of another bimbo, who cares about what couple is going through therapy, etc.? Who cares whose upper body is being enhanced into some physical grossness? But it is the modern day version of the Roman public policy of “bread and circus.”  Keep the people distracted, what else is new? Just tune into the cable programs about the lives and activities of Hollywood plastic surgeons, and their dream machine business!


What do I want? Better communication with the one's I like. I want a better, fairer world around me that I can contribute to with more understanding of the meaning and requirements of love. Creating a legacy of character and values. But we are all human, and with human weaknesses. I wish to see and know, all I like and love, to have a life of success, self-fulfillment, spirituality, and love. We need more tenderness and intimacy. Unfortunately the path our society is heading to is just the opposite. Is there an answer? I’m for sure unable to think of one. I look around and see more crassness, less respect, a degradation of the language and free-fall regarding standards. Maybe that is an irreversible trend that will last until there is some seminal event that affects all of us. But short of some social catastrophe, we are what we are as a people, and so be it.







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