The future ain't what it used to be.

Yogi Berra
JULY 29, 2010 6:47AM

Hanging on

Rate: 37 Flag

Walking problems


Having reached the age when most women are no longer physically attractive and most men are no longer physically competent we survivors must make do with the reasonable other capabilities and accomplishments granted living things who have managed to maintain existence through the hailstorm of destructive possibilities that assails us in our passages through time and space.


The world itself, of course, is infinitely fascinating and novel. Its intricacy is continuously exposed moment by moment and like any living thing, even old people are given the possibility of confronting something out of reality and having to decide whether to fear and flee from it, run to it to engage with it in some manner or ignore it totally. Running and fleeing is not a particularly complex effort, whatever its mobile limitations, but engaging has all sorts of variations.


As one ages and experiences a plethora of rather similar objects and incidents one is tempted to ignore a good deal of them as standard idiocies and superfluous nonsense and so sink into a miasma of memories of how great things were eighty years ago before humanity had the initiative to cleverly destroy a good deal of the beauty and variety the world had to offer but, as powerful as humankind has become, there are still many natural resources untouched and ready to be ravaged by human vandalism. One cannot but remember of all those delicious things with extraordinary flavors and textures that current digestive processes can no longer deal with and which the depletion of masticatory sensors no longer detect sufficiently. Some of us people retain enough agility and physical ease to enjoy a fraction of what we were but I’m afraid hang gliding appears to be a very distant possibility.


Positively, one can admire something and engage it in conversation, examine it closely and attempt to puzzle out its function and utility, bite it and test its flavor, package it and store it in a closet for future use, or, perhaps, sell it to gain something else of known value.


When confronting a pretty girl, the Mona Lisa, a gorilla, a hamburger or a housefly one must be rather careful as to which one of these options to choose.

This is a rather limited menu to examine but it gives one some entrance into the possibilities.


Conversing with pretty girls has various possibilities, none of which impinge on those motives which drove us when our hormones had all the power of hydrogen fusion. Nevertheless, quite a few are still worth aesthetic study and tease nostalgia in sadly pleasant but somewhat disturbing ways. And conversation itself can be amusing and informative on the level of linguistic exercises with newly arrived explorers from interstellar space. I have never had the opportunity to converse with a gorilla and the protocols, I suspect, may make the effort a bit on the chancy side but nevertheless, if the opportunity arises, I am open to try.


Through the years there is a satisfactory constant degree of conversation ability with cats, dogs, birds and squirrels and with topics of human politics is at least as useful in discussion with them as with fellow humans. We never discuss religion since their view of the supernatural is radically at variance with those of human theologians and I have the uneasy feeling the animals have it down far better than they do.


Hamburgers and houseflies are a total loss for conversation and flavor testing is tempting with one and not the other. Since I avoid meat these days I am not terribly sure which one to test and I may be prejudiced since houseflies have never offered me the opportunity. I may be missing something extraordinary. Just ask any frog.


One can visually converse with the Mona Lisa to one’s advantage but verbal attempts are a total loss and would probably lead to a quick invitation by the Louvre to exit. Biting attempts would probably arouse all sorts of vigorous but interesting difficulties.


As one reaches and moves beyond the average age attainments the world steps further and further away. Beyond the age of seventy-five or eighty one notices a definite drop in interest in employment opportunities. Maturity of this quality seems not at all marketable on football teams or even in basketball. Never being much of a sportsman this does not bother me too much but openings in astronautics and ballet seem disappointingly non-existent as well. I would think us feeble minded folk could perform wonders in automobile destruction derbies since our record on the highways indicates real talent in the area but I have yet to see any want ads.


Politics, of course, would seem a natural since even the younger members of Congress persistently act with the doddering incompetence of people locked up in homes for the aged for fear they are a danger to themselves. But that requires sponsorship by corporations or drug lords or such and most of us have never been “made men” nor killed anyone on orders. Luck, like Lotto aids very few.


One must, after all, in a capitalist world, find a market for one’s remaining accomplishments. My hearing in the upper frequencies is not as good as it used to be. The lens in my left eye is a bit cloudy but my right eye is fine and I read distant signs without glasses although I do use glasses for reading computer screens and books. My remaining physical capabilities, which I execute with vigor and expertise, is sneezing and farting and I have a fair chance of qualifying professionally.


So we must loll in our rockers and fondle cats and dream of high adventure. And scour the newspaper obituaries each morning for people we have known and admired and who have left the upper venues of fame to mysterious newcomers who never attain the same beloved competence.


Death, which in our vigorous years loomed on the distant horizon like a small black thundercloud, is now monstrously overhead, swirling and swishing in eager patterns and hungry for the strike. Living forever did not seem all that impossible long, long ago but when one gets a headache that lasts more than an hour or eating something not quite right that causes internal rumbling and a mid-section twinge one begins to accumulate tiny doubts.


I still sleep fairly well and my dreams remain very vivid, exciting and extremely inventive and colorful. Technology has yet to arrive where these dreams can be recorded and sold but I’m sure to achieve some marketable salability as soon as this can be managed. I’ll try to hang on for the next fifty years or so when this comes about. It appears to be a lucrative field.


So it’s this death thing that gets a hold on you once you hit 80 or so. I am not particularly anxious to find out how it is like but the curiosity remains a major issue for contemplation. Since I have never found it possible to take the standard religious conceptions of a post death existence seriously I can only assume it would be a mere cessation of functions and of course my main concern would be how the sensory apparatus dies out. Much of the speculation in the area likens death to a kind of sleep but sleep itself is a strange experience. I have had a few dreams where I was conscious of being asleep and even experimented as to what kinds of control I could exert on my experiences which was sort of fun. But I have also found myself in very stressing dream situations and my only emotion was an extreme sense of urgency to get the hell awake. This can be a real nightmare if waking does not occur immediately and when this happens I feel very reluctant to surrender myself to sleep again. On occasion I have stayed awake for most of the night rather than sleep again.


If dying is a sense of being sucked into a permanent sleep I have decided I’d rather not do it.




In dwindletime the crumblefolk go stumblefoot.

The minuteswifts rain tumbledown to dribblegone.

From hopelesscracks ooze mysteries of absolute

Convoluting histories. Encephalon

Sags toffee soft with mushysweat.

The scramblefest from septicflesh is panicnailed.

But twilightflight is moribund in dunregret.

Sireneloam sings quietus with appetite.

Fagendspurts buglecalls for finalshout

And heralds windup fizz to Sunputout.











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You do indeed sound like a survivor to me, Jan! Keep on hanging on, my friend. More power to you!

I love Dwindletime - so very interesting and fun!
This reminds me of Socrates in his elder years. You have an old soul, a wise soul. Thank you for sharing this outstanding essay.
I love being exposed to your brilliance! As I read the entirity of your essay, I was constantly facinated by your insights and conclusions, beginning with the opening paragraph ... which is one sentence ... which is summarized by this thought: " ... we survivors must make do with the reasonable other capabilities and accomplishments .... From then on, it only got better!

At 67, I now share many of your questions and beliefs ... and also find my dreams a realm of excitement no longer experienced in the realities of day to day (though I still chase young women ... with the belief I can still catch'm). But I have also concluded that the saying, ignorance is bliss, is one of life's great truths. Having lost two wives to death, both at fairly early ages (44 & 56), I have had the occasion to meet the first one since, not once, but twice through the surrealism of the spirit world ... and in the second encounter, her pressence, though not in human form, was as real as this computer. So I am ignorant to the belief that we all simply end. That ignorance is my blessing. It gives me absolute hope ... and absolutely no fear of death. I look back and smile, forward and wonder, but all the while, I live today with joy.

But I digress from you: Your thoughts, your ability to express them, are extraordinary ... as always ... and in this piece. Then to top it off, you lead me into one of your brilliant poems, and you topped IT ALL off with a cherry ... your art. Thank you, Jan!

You, Mr. Sands, are "something else!" {{{R}}}
Jan: stay away from hemlock, and all those who offer it to you. Interesting viewpoints, carved through experience and wisdom. I like the poem a lot. Very clever. R-
Rated, but I'm too old & tired to comment.
Jan, this was just great. This had me howling, because I've already met some of these young girls:

"And conversation itself can be amusing and informative on the level of linguistic exercises with newly arrived explorers from interstellar space."

...and the entire essay was extremely thought-provoking. But above all, I love the poem. I've been kicking around the idea lately of writing something jabberwockyish. I may have to take this up as a challenge. You have thrown down an impressive gauntlet.

I was happy to see you had a post this morning, before I sat down to work. Now my brain will work the better for it.
We old dogs often have similar feelings, but can't express them as well

"Technology has yet to arrive where these dreams can be recorded and sold but I’m sure to achieve some marketable salability as soon as this can be managed. I’ll try to hang on for the next fifty years or so when this comes about. "

That's the spirit.
Interesting, humorous post with lovely picture. I enjoy your insights...
Wonderful, I love the way you think. Thank you.
Glad to see you posting, Jan. I was getting worried and I apologize for not writing in a while. Hope all is well with you and the wildlife. Great post -- but I would expect nothing less from you.

If the choice were mine, I'd always take the hamburger. My conversation might be limited to "Mmmmmmm, Mmmmmmm," but at least I would feel "ful"filled when I was finished eating.
Hello Jan. I loved your intellectual wanderings here. Your somber portrait was a bit sad to me. It seems you have settled it in that way. What would a few bright primary colors have done to the sketch?

Perhaps made me and you think of a new beginning, another figure evolving out of the old, with a young kind of step. That is how I see it. Your mind is very vital and alive, a very old soul indeed. I have been told the same. In these years I have read more about such things. Some believe and others do not. I know that my friend Craig Ewert, the subject of the suicide tourist documentary, was not religious, but I think felt that he was going on the next big adventure, I think I heard that from Mary in the aftermath. It seems right knowing what I knew of him.

Death is a doorway in many ways and having been with death's dance before, is it not possible to believe that as energy, we return or remain in some way to keep spinning our psyche back out again, layered many times over with knowledge and experience?

I loved the cadence of your words here, and the poem properly frivolous. If you wonder what this time is for, it is just to be. If you think of stories write them and show us your soul. If you have dreams, they sound like mine, vivid, colored, real and message worthy, write them as you remember. Fear, what fear there is at this time? I have found in the passing years that my fears grow less and less because I have an acceptance of some things. Fears, monsters, etc. are interpretable I suppose. My daughter bought me a book about that, more for her than me...

Well, I like your writing and I enjoy our exchanges. I think you are very much alive with ideas and art, enjoy this time. R
to me it is still a view/many views from the mountain top! Many thanks for this enormous feast! I also enjoyed the moody Ben Shahn-ish image which fit so eloquently with this post. Loved the writing and image...bloodied but unbowed. thank you!
I have missed you and the beautiful cadence of your musings. This essay is wonderful.
This text is very well done. I first thought that it would deserve a 'better' audience than OS. But is there any better audience?

But in any case, I think that you could get the text published on commercial medias. You might try contacting foreigners' magazines and papers in Finland?
Another interesting journey you've taken us on....I so enjoy how you string your tale together--
Your words also send me back to the time of my mother's eighties when she danced down the aisle with her third groom, also in his eighties, when she also had a penchant for lurking where youth congregated and surprising them into friendship. She did alienate her wild neighbors by not setting out seed so they pooped in her garden, and she was a snob towards the cats so they retaliated by sneaking in her house and pissing everywhere....
Fortunately I read in your posts that you are much more wise and friendly to your neighbors...and I shall keep my eyes open for you for professions where your vigorous sneezing, etc. might be in demand...
Not bad for a 39-year-old dude, Jan. Obviously one of your faculties - that being wit - has not diminished with age.
Don't waste too much time pining for the Mona Lisa. Many art historians believe Leonardo painted himself in drag. On the other hand, dating Leonardo would be a life highpoint.
You do invite us to think along with you as you wander through so many paths. If all os us could hang on as vibrantly as you do here with your thoughts, your words, your poetry, your art, what a sunlit twilight might always stimulate and embrace us.
I really liked this. As someone with the lungs of old age encased in the body and experiences of early middle age and driven by the spirit of youth, I can relate to all of it.
I love this post for it's many layers and the way you give us so much --the art, the prose and the poetry. You, sir, make it such a pleasure to visit your small space.
Thanks for the comments, but frankly all this praise is very inhibiting. I try to say what I think and be amusing. So now I am stuck with producing what seems to be extraordinary material and I don't know how to untangle myself and maintain the quality I have been accused of producing. I have started at least ten posts and reconsidered them and tossed them away as not befitting the positive comments. I am in something of a quandary.
Love the humor you brought to your wry and keen observations of life in the 8th decade - thank you for this glimpse through the lens of your bright intelligence and good spirit.
Your essay gave me moments of joy and moments of sadness, that is why I read. Your poem gave me happiness.
I completely forgot to tell you how much I love your art.
I looked through some of it on your other posts and it is truly wonderful. What a gem I have discovered.
Well, I had to look in on you -- even though I am not being active on Salon and you did not disappoint me. Of course, I can truly identify with the dark side of this so well and often amusingly expressed. I had just come in from the garden, where I actually had the leisure time to read the Sunday paper thoroughly with all it's bad news, and yet the garden was the injection of euphoria that I needed to not believe that the world had gone to "hell in a hand-basket." That phrase came from the recesses of my "old" mind. My garden is a bit wild and VERY green and has huge and stately trees, oaks and redwoods. One can not be too down-trodden in my garden if they but see. As for "death" I have decided that it will come when it comes, and there are days I feel closer to it. If there is nothing beyond this life -- then nothing is nothing --- and if there is something wonderful to behold -- then -- won't that be a grand surprise! It is not death that frightens me but how it might come, and so far am grateful that I have been given the gift of a fairly healthy shell.

You are writing too lengthy,please write little we are living in very fast and speedy age no time for reading these lengthy essay
One of my best buds is 25 years my senior. While reading here, I thought of him, of us, of marking time. I'm sending him the link for the fun read of Dwindletime. Thank you.
Dwindletime is dwindlelicious!
As I read parts of this, I was thinking of how you sounded a lot like Socrates, especially the "Much of the speculation in the area likens death to a kind of sleep but sleep itself is a strange experience."

But I think Socrates was tired, for he made note that no one would mind an endless sleep and seemed all too happy to drink his hemlock.

You sound far from tired, Jan and ready to take on the tornado in that black cloud hanging over you.
Great piece. Would get an EP if I were voting.
My favorite of your poems, so far!
Also, my mother decided, when she was fairly young, to dismiss death and continued in this frame of mind even as she was dying. I'm not sure whether to recommend this, though, as I've not heard from her since she became a tenant in The Land of the Dismissive and Dismissed.
Did you hear that according to Newsweek magazine Finland is the best country in the world to live?

Have you posted about this?
I haven't heard. I just like it here.
your command of the language is masterful
and then you also had to be such an intriguing artist
some have all the luck
a shame it took me a whole month to get here
Contemplating eternity is most unsettling, whether in 'an after-life' (whatever such is imagined to be it is assuredly no more than an imagined existence in non-existence), or in a perpetual, non-ending voidness. It is a tragedy we humans as a whole have not wised up after all these millennia to have come to fully appreciate the finitude of Life.
So insightful. I love it. And I love the poem. I hope that as I get older, I'll be able to age as thoughtfully and gracefully as yourself, and to keep my sense of humor, as you seem to have done. One quick thing: in my favorite paragraph, about conversing with cats and dogs, you write: "...since their view of the supernatural is radically at variance with those of human theologians and I have the uneasy feeling they have it down far better than they do." Could you replace one of the last 2 "they" 's with a proper noun, to clarify? Regardless, a wonderful, thought-provoking read. I have faith that you'll continue to age gracefully, and I hope you truly do, too. Rated.
as usual you seem to hit all the buttons and cover most of the territory but here is an area that you have skipped over. The constantly changing electronics gate to a cyber world which would not exist except for the vision of young men with computers.

I just spent a week exploring the capacity of my new cell phone. My first one was a "fail safe" item that I kept in my purse for use when my car required help. My new one thinks it is a computer. Wikipedia acts as a search engine along with google and yahoo and others. I just covered the same area on my computer for a search on "abstract expression women artists" and it was the same only easier to read.

It's getting crowded out there. For me it continues to provide the kind of challenge that I need to build more synapses in my failing mental capacity. Yes, it's not the brain cells we are losing that bring on those
senior moments" it's the synapses. Do something new and challenging every day to make new ones.
Still waiting for a weather cooldown?