Here I am, growing up in the 1940’s in Manhattan’s Second Avenue between 70th and 71st Streets on the East side.
Cute kid, huh? Yeah, we had a crappy home life, with an idiot father who drank too much and couldn’t hold a decent job. Or maybe he drank too much because he was expected to hold down a decent job so he could support a wife and three kids. Whatever. He couldn’t/didn’t want to do it. Luckily, mom believed in supporting her three kids, so she worked and brought home the bacon.
So, my bro and I were classic latch-key kids who played on the streets after school. We had fun, despite our deficient family life.
And then I turned into this creature.
Who the hell is he and how did he come into being? See, I look into the mirror each day and wonder who it is I am looking at. See, I’m now 85, but I can’t figure out how that happened. My grannies were always 85, until they were no more. I am supposed to be 30 . . . well maybe 40, but that’s it. Yeah, yeah, I know about all those years spent working, or traveling to exotic locations—what, now you’re going to tell me that Lincoln, Nebraska is not an exotic location?? Ok, I get it.
So, somehow I got here, but now that I’m here, I don’t know what to do with it all. How do I deal with this ending thing? See, all my Grans left by around the time they hit this 85 thing. Yeah, none made it into their 90s. So, theoretically, I’m poised to be leaving. But I am not yet ready to be “leaving”. And mainly because you don’t really “leave” do you? I mean there is no journey that you begin after you croak. You simply cease “being”. So, I’m not quite ready for that non-status.
But what to do instead? One daughter thinks I need something to do, and maybe I should become a home delivery man for delivering food to the house-bound. But I don’t feel like delivering meals. Part of my problem, I suppose, is that I have never actually done anything worthy of note. Oh, I earned money, working as an engineer in an aerospace company, and then as a management consultant here and abroad. But I never really created anything worthy of the name, nothing to mark my presence on Earth—see Michelangelo, or maybe Albert Einstein.
I have been mostly an Observer. I grew up and into this ancient cretin by observing life. They say that “Life is What Happens When You’re Busy Making Other Plans”. And that’s partly true. But I also Observe. Now that’s ok, I guess. I even turned my “observing” into a pseudo-art form by taking pictures of everything and then pretending it was “art”. But observing and doing really are different ways to occupy your life. And I think that’s what we all do—Occupy Our Lives for some finite period.
And so, to fill the time, I write a bit, I take a lot of pictures, and I read about things. And so I continue this “aging in Place” thing. Meanwhile, I begin to look differently each day. And I begin to think about this world and my place in it differently each day.
Lately, I cannot stop thinking about this creature we call Donald Trump. It’s hard because he tends to suck all the air out of the room each day. We can almost literally not think or focus on anything else. And having grown up under such creatures in the same place as Franklin Roosevelt, and John Kennedy, and Dwight Eisenhower, this creature called Trump seems totally foreign. He would be more believable as the head of some organized crime gang . . . surely not the head of any country, unless it was Tasmania, or Uzbekistan (well, technically, Tasmania is not a state, but an island state of Australia, but . . .) Apologies to those places.
But I didn’t used to think about the creatures who ran our nation. No, growing up, mostly the head dudes just ran things without being stupid about it. So, I was able to be myself, have a bit of fun, do some “work” and admire my family. You know—LIVE.
But now that I am nearing the end of this creative space we call LIFE, I am having trouble thinking about anything other than the White House Cretin, Donald Trump. He insists we all think only of him. And all my 80+ years on this planet earth amount to nothing. I am reduced to a pair of eyes and a limited brain observing the creature Donald doing stupid things.
Now mainly these days, I think about the people who seem actually to like him. I walk into the Y mornings to work out, so as to keep this aging piece of flesh firm for the next day. And I look around, and I see a 60ish woman wearing a “Trump—2020—Keep America Great” sign on her shirt. And I see a fat white guy wearing a Firefighters for Trump shirt, and I think (hmmm, racist). But is the old lady a racist, and that’s her excuse? Does she understand that he likes to “grab women by the pussy, just cuz he can?” How is it possible that she supports him? And so I laugh at her. Oh she doesn’t know that, but I do.
I can’t watch any of the impeachment things on TV. It’s too disturbing to think that we have actual republican politicians who have so few ethical principles that they will lie to preserve his status as our Lord and Master. And then I think, I may leave (cease to exist) while he is still here as Master of our universe. And I will not learn how this black comedy all turns out. Will our kids and grandkids all disappear in a puff of smoke because he does yet another terminally stupid thing and a war begins without an ending? I can’t bear that thought.
And so I continue for another day, hoping that some miracle occurs to save our little piece of this sad universe. Where is Greta Thunberg when we need her? Oh, she really is busy trying to save our actual globe from destruction. She doesn’t have time for the cretin Donald.
I guess I will have to continue observing day by day, even pretending to some artsy thing occasionally. And meanwhile, I will continue to hope. Maybe this is what my grans did when they observed Hitler during WW II. We never talked about that, cuz I was too young for such talk. But maybe they simply observed. Oh and I guess they voted too. That’s how we got such amazing people like FDR, and Ike, and Kennedy.
And so I will have to just carry on, and pretend that I matter on this planet. I will end this little diatribe with something I wrote a while ago, something about existence and perception.
I stood outside on our porch one morning, just the other day. I often come out early, as the sun is rising, just to look. As I stood there, I began thinking; someday this will all be gone. I will no longer stand here looking out at the sky and the trees, and the houses with their residents just beginning to awaken. It will all be gone.
Then I corrected myself.
No, one day, it will remain, and only the image in my brain will be gone. But if there is no image in my brain, does it actually exist, this thing I now see? It’s the old, “if a tree falls in the forest and there is no one to hear it, does the tree actually fall? Perhaps, if I am no longer here, then nothing exists.
So then, what are we all doing here? Are we all simply sitting around, waiting for Godot?
I think of the expression about people who, “are simply taking up space.” That is, they aren’t doing anything useful, but what is useful anyway? Is useful getting up in the morning, strapping on a vest filled with dynamite, driving to some crowded marketplace, and then detonating the vest?
Is useful deciding to feed a hungry child?
Is useful, then, a relative term, meaning, in the final analysis, exactly nothing?
In a million years, would being useful matter?
We fuss about such terminally stupid things, like whether two people of the same gender should be allowed to marry, while ignoring the fact that half of the “correctly married” will eventually divorce one another, some after great stress, and even violence. But of what consequence are such things anyway? Will the earth cease to rotate if we do one thing and not another?
Did it matter that Adolph Hitler decided to kill six million people simply because they were Jews, or Gypsies, or some other condition he deemed un-Germanic?
Well, it turns out that it did matter, but only briefly, and only to the people he killed, and the people who loved the people he killed. In a million years, Hitler will be as though he never existed. He’s the tree that fell in the forest while no one was around to see it or hear it fall. And the people he killed will also be as though they never existed.
What matters then is the moment . . . now. And the only moment that matters is that which I perceive. And if I act, always act, so as to create beauty, then for those brief moments that I exist, I may fulfill the only possible purpose for which I exist. And if I understand that beauty exists in many forms—a work of art surely, but also the smile of a child, the caress of a loved one, the rising of the sun, or its setting, the low whirring of a hummingbird’s wings as it caresses your path.
These matter, even if only for the briefest moments.
For those moments, I truly exist . . .
Bye for now.