Monday, October 16, 2017

Rites of Passage

I am not yet sitting on the perimeter of the dance floor gossiping with the other old ladies while the young people party. I still have some steps left in me, but I don't last long. It's not my music anyway. Fast, insistent and very loud. But I did get up for Aretha at a recent wedding. Aretha, my contemporary, my familiar. I respect her and she respects me. We have a long history going back to my springtime in the '60s when my dancing was a self-conscious performance art. The huge sound that comes out of her reminds me of a lifetime of celebrations, many pieces of cake. I am now not so much a participant as an observer at these festivities. I am there to maintain continuity and to witness a rite of passage, to hold it in the collective memory. I am there because the groom's parents are beloved to me and we would never think of marking any occasion in our lives without including one another. Long ago, we bought tickets to ride on the same bus with some of the same other passengers and we are still chugging along that bumpy road.

A community of people who have known one another for a long time is like a telescope that scans the heavens for ripples of activity. It observes the births of stars and grandchildren, the deaths of parents and then, in the course of things, the passing of the friends themselves. It picks up the audio as well, the babytalk, the weeping, the eruptions of joy. It is greater than the sum of its parts. When someone dies or even moves away, there is a complete reconfiguration of the shape of things, as if the number six were moved down a space in one of those 4x4 plastic slide puzzles we used to play with when we were children. Everything shifts.

Einstein understood this when he taught us about relativity, the idea that it is not possible to separate an event from its observation. The fact that history is witnessed by family, by old friends, is part of the history itself, beginning with the preparations, the anticipation. And this is true at every gateway, at every crossing, graduations, weddings, baby namings, diagnoses and deaths. Once back in the '90s, my husband and I and the parents of the groom from the recent event were guests at another wedding. I remember holding my breath and experiencing a deep knowing that this was a moment of unalloyed goodness that would not happen quite the same way again. People who were now laughing would soon be silent. I saw that simultaneously from the inside of the merrymaking and from the outside, watching it at a great remove. I got the whole picture and the picture included me.

Marking the passages of life alone is at best a miscalculation, at worst a rending of the narrative fabric. The weight of memory is too great to carry without help. My first marriage took place in City Hall in lower Manhattan, the two of us arriving in the ornate chambers unaccompanied. We had to ask the people behind us on line to sign the official documents, to serve as our witnesses. It was a funny story until it wasn't. And when my mother died twelve days after I visited her in the nursing home in Berkeley on her 99th birthday, I had already returned to the east coast. She had delighted my sister and me with her trademark rendition of the Marseillaise, waving her frail, bruised arm in the air like de Gaulle at a military parade.  But then, a few days later, all three of us were incapacitated by a virulent flu. My mother's ancient respiratory system failed and I was too sick to fly back to be with her. When she was finally actively dying, I was in a parked car listening on my cell phone. My sister held the phone up to my mother's ear so that she would know I was saying goodbye, but all I could hear was the whoosh of the ventilator, the chatter of the nurses. No one should lose her mother on the phone, sitting at the wheel of a green Subaru.

Life is with people. Better to be part of it, all the unravelling messiness, the pain and the partying. Better to break the bread, fill the wine glasses and create the ceremony together again and again.

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seventysomething now has its own Facebook page. I will be posting the blog there as well as poetry, prose, photography and other work by wonderful older artists. Please Like the new page. 

Please share seventysomething with other interested parties. I welcome your comments on email, Facebook or on this blog. I have recently updated the comments function and hope it is easier to use. 


Monday, October 2, 2017

Tragedy in the Tropics

Last night, I found myself dreaming about Puerto Rico. I saw the cars lining up, the babies screaming, and the long, dark suffocating nights. I saw the beaches, the jungle, El Junque, the colonial architecture of San Juan and the children of the Puerto Rican diaspora I went to school with sixty-five years ago, the children my father helped with their English after school. They are homeless now, the families of these children. They are thirsty. My dreams are indistinguishable from the reporting coming in from the island. I see the catastrophe when I lie down and when I rise up.

The boundary of the Puerto Rican community on the Upper West Side of Manhattan began a few feet east of my front door off Broadway, extending all the way to Central Park and along Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues, not yet gentrified. I somehow learned not to walk on those streets, past the bodegas and the places that sold cuchifritos, except in a literary emergency if I had to go to the library on 81st street. No one taught me that lesson. I learned indirectly through gestures, through facial expressions, to be afraid of Otherness, of loud dance music blaring out of transistor radios in the street, of men playing dominoes out on the stoops. In school, classrooms were as segregated as the ones in Little Rock. A handful were reserved for Us, the well-fed, whiteskinned children of the professional and business classes. The remainder of the building consisted of rooms full of Them, children being told not to speak their native Spanish. Recently, in a sorry attempt to make amends, I experimented with a reversal of fortune, trying to study Spanish at seventysomething. No dice. There is no space left in my aging brain that can accommodate verbs in the conditional. It is painful when you can't express yourself. It is painful when people don't understand you. The sisters, cousins, children and grandchildren of the people I went to school with, trapped on a tropical island dismembered by nature run amok, are hungry now and will be literally powerless for six months. I try to take it in, this bankrupting, this third-worlding of a part of America. And while I'm trying to digest it, feeling increasingly lightheaded with despair, the man reputedly in charge is tweeting away, accusing Puerto Ricans of expecting too much, of not being willing to help themselves. The catastrophe in Puerto Rico has vacuumed up all the other issues crowding my awareness. The nuclear threat is still, praise God, an abstraction, though that luxury could be shortlived. The machinations of Congress are like a drone bass, always underlying the melody no matter what music is playing. I've learned to tune it out to a degree. But these people in Ponce and Arecibo, always, of course, real to themselves, are now real to me. Fear kept me from hearing them when I was a child, but I hear them now and they are crying out for help.

All lives are finite, but now the finitude of my own life is more apparent to me than it was even ten years ago. The only way to get from today to tomorrow in one piece is by making some decisions about what's most important, performing some kind of reluctant triage. This witness demands that I filter out much of the other incoming noise, the brass band of the political circus blaring oompah music at a deafening volume, the lion tamer cracking his whip. We all need to take care of ourselves, stay connected and stay healthy. But the extent of my concern for the people around me has narrowed, even as it has deepened. I can't allow everyone in. Sometimes, mea culpa, I turn into the dogfood aisle, even though I don't have a dog, just to avoid talking to a perfectly good person I recognize in the cereal aisle. I have to work with my anxiety about the state of the world so it doesn't keep me awake at night. As a lifelong insomniac, I have several strategies for dealing with sleeplessness. Lately, I've been playing a game where I try to allow my mind to focus on two completely unrelated words or names, with the idea that the two are so incompatible that no third line of thought can possibly arise from them so you might as well go to sleep. The last time I tried it, I came up with Stalin and crackerjacks. This incongruity sent me into dreamland. But once I got there, I found that it was covered with hurricane debris and fallen coconut palms. Puerto Rico had not gone away.

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 Look for seventysomething on http://pbs.org/newshour/making-sense

seventysomething now has its own Facebook page. I will be posting the blog there as well as poetry, prose, photography and other work by wonderful older artists. Please Like the new page. 

Please share seventysomething with other interested parties. I welcome your comments on email, Facebook or on this blog. I have recently updated the comments function and hope it is easier to use.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Put on a Happy Face

the author and her sister
On the way to dinner in Minneapolis at the trendy South American restaurant, Hola Arepa, we met Donna, an ancient relic of a woman sweeping grass clippings into a dustpan in her front yard. She wore a pink pinafore and a wig that rested on her head like an affectionate cocker spaniel. Donna invited us to come into her garden, a sea of purple phlox, and even to walk behind the house where tomatoes proliferated despite the rainy summer. This woman made me smile. It was entirely involuntary and got me thinking about all the forced smiles I've pasted on my face over the years.

We seventysomethings were born into the thick of mid-century striving and compliance, every day another opportunity to be good and do good. True, we made a jailbreak in the '60s, splattering our insides Pollack-like in every direction on the blank canvas of adolescence, but the die had already been cast. You have only to look at the photographs. We were the little darlings of the post-war American middle class and we had to look the part. We had to look happy. Do the research in your own photograph albums. Not the digital ones, living untethered in the cloud of unknowing. Not even the looseleaf ones with slippery plastic sleeves. I mean the frayed chronicles of family life where pictures of varying sizes, some sepia, some polaroid, some with scalloped edges, are affixed with adhesive corners to the stiff paper and labeled, for example, "Susie's sixth birthday, 1951." You will notice that the studio shots of your grandparents are serious business. I imagine the women corsetting up, the men straightening their collars and cuffs as they get ready to pose for the photographer on the Bowery. No one is smiling. Everyone understands the gravity of the sit. It's the proof of their arrival, their material heft preserved for posterity. Check out the whipped confection hairdos, the pocket watches. Now, fast forward forty or fifty years. The photograph has become more than a recognition of accomplishment. It is now, above all, an occasion for flaunting family happiness. There is no yelling, no withdrawal of affection on the Kodak Brownie. Everyone is saying cheese.

Children sometimes defy convention and insist on authenticity. I have known them, these guerillas in pajamas, to show fierce resistance to smile-for-the-camera, contorting their faces into grimaces that will never make it onto holiday cards. It's one of their secret weapons. If you ask a monster-faced child to smile, you will get something artificial that looks like it's masking an upset stomach.

At the same time, there is an entire body of thought that turns the act of smiling into a spiritual practice. The Buddhist teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, writes that a true smile comes from dwelling in awareness. You don't wear it like an article of clothing and it has no utility. It won't help you ingratiate yourself with your colleagues, making up your face with the corners of your mouth pointing out towards your ears. A true smile is simply a response to noticing how remarkable it is that you're here on the planet. It conveys the sense of being alive, experiencing all at once the in here of yourself and the out there of the world, encountering the gardener in the pink pinafore.

Occasions for smiles of awareness don't arise on schedule like visits from the wedding photographer, wandering the hall from table to table, documenting the bride and groom standing in turn behind each group of overstuffed relatives. They are sometimes mixed with loss. Recently, on a September day, the grass an end-of-summer green scattered with the first fallen leaves, we ran into an old friend walking out of the cemetery in Stockbridge, an idyllic place rich in historic resonance. She wanted to know if we had visited her husband's grave. "Not recently," I admitted. "Do you think he's comfortable in there"? "I hope so," she said, with a wide open grin that spoke of her gentle love for him and invited our collective wonder at his passing. "This could be the real estate of our future," we thought out loud, standing on the sidewalk. Entering the gates then, her smile at our backs, we stopped at the grave of our friend, piled with small stones of remembrance.
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 Look for seventysomething on http://pbs.org/newshour/making-sense

seventysomething now has its own Facebook page. I will be posting the blog there as well as poetry, prose, photography and other work by wonderful older artists. Please Like the new page. 

Please share seventysomething with other interested parties. I welcome your comments on email, Facebook or on this blog. I have recently updated the comments function and hope it is easier to use.




Sunday, September 3, 2017

Fixing a Hole

Minneapolis message
We are fixated on fixing. When I was a hospice chaplain, I always thought I had the best job in the office. The hospice staff diverged from the medical model, devoting its best practices to keeping the patients comfortable at a point along the living-dying continuum when all the treatment options had been exhausted and none of them was working any longer. Still, there were a great many questions to ask, problems to solve. The nurse had to figure out which medication would alleviate George's intractable nerve pain and which would help him sleep when he was overwhelmed with anxiety. The social worker had to assess Margaret's caregiving team to determine if her husband and daughter were up to the challenges. I had no such agenda. I was not required to bring my laptop with me when I visited patients and their families. I was just there, doing the hard job of not fixing.

I was a chaplain from a Jewish background with no traditional credentials, no ordination. I approached people empty handed, without a communion wafer to offer, a string of rosary beads to worry. I was, to say the least, an anomaly in Holyoke, Massachusetts, a floundering mill town where there were Catholic parishes that catered to the Irish, others that drew the Polish families and still others where mass was said in French. There were additionally the usual mainstream Protestant churches and a great many storefront Pentecostal iglesias. My liturgy rose like smoke out of the fire of the stories that people told about their lives. At first, many of them would deny the importance of their experience. They would say "I don't know. I grew up in Chicopee. Went to work the night shift. Got married, wife and I had a couple of kids. That's about it." But with a little prompting, Red, a World War II vet at the Soldiers' Home, reverently described the stillness and patience he learned, waiting for a deer at the edge of the dark forest, his preferred cathedral. Daniel told me how fortunate he felt growing up on a farm where there was plenty to eat...how during the Depression he saved his apple cores to give to hungry boys at school. Mrs. Murphy spoke rapturously about Elvis, his portrait prominently displayed alongside the Blessed Virgin on the walls of her apartment. Some of the stories were tragic, parents outliving children. Some patients were so estranged from their families that no one ever came to visit them. Nurses with years of experience imparted two crucial lessons. They taught me, the novice, the greenhorn, that sometimes men who seemed charming and gregarious in old age had abused their wives and children and they taught me that I couldn't fix all the brokenness that came hobbling out of the past. I began the long study of being with people, which is a far, anguished cry from doing for people. Whatever the arc of the story, I told the hospice patients that their wanderings were sacred like Moses at the Burning Bush, like Jesus fasting in the Judaean desert. I told them the biblical figures shared their fear, their yearning and sometimes they believed me.

I am retired from hospice now and no longer have the same story-listening privileges. Still, the narrative of life is all around me and my witnessing remains essentially the same. In the supermarket, assaulted by fluorescent lights, lurid Enquirer headlines and candy in improbable colors, I find myself porous to the young women and old men on the check-out line. This one is expecting her third child in four years. That one just buried his wife. It's only the convention of separateness that restrains my instinct to make it all better. Still, when someone I love is in trouble - and when is that not the case? - I continue to feel the need to fix the hole where the rain comes in. I forget, I remember, and I forget again that deep listening is often the palliative that people are wanting and not getting, that being willing to look someone else's pain in the eye without blinking it away is, for the most part, the best I can do. In that optic embrace, in the loving appreciation we share, the two of us, the speaker and the listener, become our most fully human.


seventysomething now has its own Facebook page. I will be posting the blog there as well as poetry, prose, photography and other work by wonderful older artists. Please Like the new page. 

Please share seventysomething with other interested parties. I welcome your comments on email, Facebook or on this blog. I have recently updated the comments function and hope it is easier to use. If you do not have a gmail account, comment as Anonymous, but please tell me who you are in the body of the remarks. Click on comments (it will say how many there are), select Anonymous from the drop-down menu, enter your comment and hit publish at the bottom of the page. If you do comment, I will respond on the blog, so please check back so our conversation can continue.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Beyond Nostalgia

Nostalgia is a cheap street drug. When you first inhale it, you get a fierce rush - Lenny Bruce at the Fillmore East! Dylan at Gerde's Folk City! Then comes the inevitable crash and you are left weak in the knees. You find yourself in the graying present, wandering through bound albums, the images strangely diverse, an English garden of photographs not at all like the manicured files of the digital now. Everything so long ago. You look back through a reverse crystal ball at all the hoopla, sometimes not even believing you were there in that time when both you and the world around you were so raw and unfiltered. Adolescent anguish, art and sex flying in all directions, rocking and rolling off the wall like so many billiard balls. No time to sleep. No idea that you would some day grow old and no longer be the headline.

Still, here you are, Dustin Hoffman's 80th birthday just past, in a world constipated by plastics, somehow still alive despite your various transgressions. You and the world both. At a recent reunion lunch with a dear old friend, you find yourself asking, as each name from the past is wondrously conjured up....Is she alive? Is he still with us? Remarkably, all the people you ask about have survived. They are out there in Brooklyn and Boston and Berkeley, a whole generation of clocks winding down. All you can think about is the two of you and a third friend, in life an anthropologist, waiting for a bus one night in Sunnyside, Queens. The other guy said something so hysterical that the three of you laughed right up to the borderline of wetting your pants. You actually remember the joke, but you can't repeat it. Not because it's tacky or sophomoric, but because it makes no sense. It's embalmed back there in 1963.

Your friend says that seventysomethings hit the jackpot, growing up in the Howdy Doody fifties and coming of age in the hallucinogenic sixties. It's a kind of demographic exceptionalism that may or may not be true, but is probably not possible to evaluate from the inside. You only know what you know, but you're fairly sure there was more to it than tie dye. The problem with nostalgia is that it's all about yearning. It wants what it can't have. It wants to stay up till the early hours carousing even though sleep is now its bestest friend. It draws its oxygen from the treacly belief that there is such a thing as the good old days, leaving out the inconvenient Freedom Summer murders, the massacre at My Lai. It is vulnerable to commercial exploitation. Only 731 days left till the Woodstock golden anniversary! Nostalgia wants to be reassured that nothing has really changed, even though your mother and father are no longer here to advise and cajole you. Even though you are now the spirit guide.

To really cash in on the jackpot, you would need to consider its impact on the present, to recognize the cellular imprint of the raucous times you lived through on who you are now. To your simmering genetic stock, your ancestral and family history, you would need to add the peppery spice of those improbable times of your becoming,  back then before you knew anything about anything, anything about life. There was no cookbook to explain the process, no freeze-dried ingredients to reconstitute. Everything was made from scratch. Everything was improvisatory. You made it up as you went along which made you deeply foolish, but also somewhat brave. You accumulated experience and squirreled it away for possible use at a later date, going to college in 1962 barely able to find Vietnam on the map, ending up marching on the Pentagon five years later. You graduated into a vast blankness, having no idea what to do with your life, but understanding somehow that it was precious and finding yourself thirty-five years later attending the death beds of hospice patients.

You came of age in a time of expansion, of dissolving boundaries, of greater permission and this permission to wander without a plan, without a map, has made of your life one big seminar, Lenny Bruce and Dylan two of your many teachers. Learning has been the hidden paradigm, the holy book, and this gospel, this Torah, has sustained you and lifted you out of a conventional girlhood. It has carried you through loss and disbelief and will deliver you wherever it is you're going.


seventysomething now has its own Facebook page. I will be posting the blog there as well as poetry, prose, photography and other work by wonderful older artists. Please Like the new page. 

Please share seventysomething with other interested parties. I welcome your comments on email, Facebook or on this blog. If you do not have a gmail account, comment as Anonymous, but please tell me who you are in the body of the remarks. Click on comments (it will say how many there are), select Anonymous from the drop-down menu, enter your comment and hit publish. If you do comment, I will respond on the blog, so please check back so our conversation can continue. 

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Breaking and Entering

Birthdays are like party crashers. They show up in your life uninvited and start making demands. More drinks, more cake, more attention. New shoes with your $5 off birthday coupon from Famous Footwear. Sometimes, you just have to invite them in and pretend you know them.

The other day, in an attempt to make friends with my 72nd birthday, I decided to treat myself to a half day at Kripalu, the yoga center. They were hosting TEDxBerkshires 2017, a program of TED talks by local luminaries accompanied by the usual gourmet vegan lunch offerings, yoga classes and meditation. I am by nature an underdeveloped consumer and almost never buy myself anything. This may be an area of self-improvement I'll want to focus on going forward. Maybe I'll make it part of my spiritual practice to indulge in some unusual self-gifting in every remaining year on or around the 2nd of August. In any case, I was terribly pleased with myself for whipping out my VISA card to make this purchase. Entering my card number filled me with a great sense of reckless abandon. So much so that I ran into the kitchen and grabbed a handful of almonds to further feed myself. I bit down on a hard, resistant nut and immediately cracked off substantial chunks of tooth and old filling, crumbling teeth being an inadequately acknowledged aspect of aging. What are we to learn from this episode? Nuts can be bad for your teeth? Impulse buying is a sign of poor character and must be punished? The jury is out.

About four days before the Kripalu incident, I was sitting in my meditation sangha, experiencing a particular serenity. Outside the building, it was high summer in the Berkshires. Not wall-to-wall-traffic-in-Great Barrington high summer, but the lilies-blooming-and-bullfrogs-croaking kind. Inside, seven or eight people I don't know well, but feel connected to in a way I can't explain, were practicing in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh, the Order of Interbeing. After the sit, there was walking meditation and dharma sharing. At the end of the 90 minute gathering, I went out to the parking lot in the late afternoon mid-July sunshine, got behind the wheel and backed into someone else's car. As I am in thrall to the need to uncover meaning in events, my first thought was - you better watch where you're going. My second thought was - I'm probably not as serene as I think.

Glimpses of serenity appear like weekend getaways from a pervasive underlying grind of vulnerability. No matter how many planks and bridges I execute on the gym floor, I am fragile. I am open to criminal mischief. I am human and I can be hurt. I am mortal. I will not always be here with my narrow shoulders and wide hips the way I am now. The reality is I have almost no control over anything. I can be more careful in parking lots, but sooner or later there will be damage, maybe even blood. Considered in this light, these petty larcenies are God's way of breaking and entering me, barking at me until I recognize what I am determined to resist. Nothing is forever. Serenity would be advised to learn to tolerate its noisy downstairs neighbor vulnerability.

Once, when I was 40ish, I was sitting in a restaurant in West Stockbridge with a group of friends, eating and drinking, partying in that moony, indifferent way we used to party. The table was set with burning candles. In those days, I had an unruly head of frizzy hair, my unkempt curls extending in all directions. When I leaned forward, the better to share the vodka-marinated moment with my friends, my hair caught on fire. But because the split ends were so far away from my scalp, I didn't feel the heat. I wasn't aware that I was seconds from immolation, from going up in flames like yesterday's papers, until my friend, Jimmy, himself dead only a few years later, threw his jacket over my head and extinguished the fire. I guess you could say that was a wake-up call. Now, I'm wondering, what was the common parlance for this light bulb effect before hotels offered wake-up calls and do we need a new word now that we are all responsible for our own getting woke?


seventysomething now has its own Facebook page. I will be posting the blog there as well as poetry, prose, photography and other work by wonderful older artists. Please Like the new page. 

Please share seventysomething with other interested parties. I welcome your comments on email, Facebook or on this blog. If you do not have a gmail account, comment as Anonymous, but please tell me who you are in the body of the remarks. Click on comments (it will say how many there are), select Anonymous from the drop-down menu, enter your comment and hit publish. If you do comment, I will respond on the blog, so please check back so our conversation can continue. 



Monday, July 17, 2017

Common Sense About the Common Good

There are still some people in public life who believe in the common good, however antiquated that may sound. In spite of the libertarian, market-intoxicated invisible hand that keeps clutching the holy grail of individual rights, some people see a bigger, more nuanced picture. They're out there with legislative and regulatory graders, trying to level the field so that everyone can play. These people are accused of the sin of supporting income redistribution. They come under blistering fire for harboring gasp socialist sympathies. I call them public servants. A few such women and men remain in Washington, despite the irresistible pull of greed that motivates most of their colleagues to get out of bed in the morning. Public servants sustain a vision that struggles to calibrate the rights of individuals against the well-being of the whole. It's like marriage or parenting on a grand scale. How do I get my needs met while paying attention to your needs? Elizabeth Warren brings that vision to the Senate.

Warren cleans up good. I first saw her in 2011 at the Itam lodge in Pittsfield when she was running for office. She was smart, but seriously wonky, in keeping with her career as a Harvard professor with the snoozy specialty of bankruptcy law. She stood behind a lectern in a dark outfit and delivered a well-crafted speech on the decline and fall of the American middle class. Fast forward to earlier this month when I heard her again at a Town Hall at Berkshire Community College. Elizabeth, in an orange silk jacket that seemed to illustrate the fire she was radiating, bobbed and weaved around the stage like a featherweight prizefighter, quick, on target and lethal. At 68, she is on the brink of seventysomething and she is not taking no for an answer. Not when it comes to healthcare, student debt or any other aspect of public education currently presided over by her nemesis, Betsy De Vos. Warren has even launched a website called De Vos Watch to keep us focused and informed about the rightwing seizure of our schools and the threat to opportunities to our grandchildren. She is unapologetic in her recognition that a society that refuses to educate its children or provide healthcare for its sick, its disabled, is a society that is already writing its own eulogy.

It's a big step for me to attach to Elizabeth Warren. Much easier to identify with outsiders. The women I've most admired throughout my life have been rebels, noisemakers, people who thumbed their noses at convention. Marge Piercy and Grace Paley, who immersed themselves in political activism even as they wrote luminous and idiosyncratic poetry and prose. My Aunt Julie, who never married, had a string of lovers when that sort of thing was frowned upon, and carried her prized possessions around in a duffle-sized handbag. These were messy women, maybe even nasty, certainly not camera-ready.

Sitting in the stands yelling at the umpire, generally raising hell, is sometimes easier than occupying a seat at the table where you have to show up every day and do whatever you can to actually solve problems. In the past five years, Warren has settled into her seat and made it her business to read the weaponized fine print that those in power use to squeeze the lifeblood out of everyone else. The minutia of consumer protection, student debt, financial services reform, and now, healthcare. Through it all, she talks about the social contract, the unwritten law that constitutes the foundation of our commitment to the common good and the irrefutable evidence that the foundation is cracking.

The social contract is frayed, she says, without sugar-coating it. If we don't see ourselves in the anguished expression of the overworked single mother next door, we are not seeing either one of us. We cannot continue to drive over the same structurally compromised bridge and expect it to last forever, or collapse under the other guy's car. If we do not even believe in the common good and do not care to contribute to it, then it's a given that the air will become more toxic for everyone, the water will become less potable for everyone. More people will suffer from poor health and be less able to afford medical care. More children will grow to adulthood without the most rudimentary skills that are needed to survive in 21st century America. Hearing Elizabeth Warren speak earlier this month reassured me that belief in the common good is an ailing, but not yet endangered species. We must protect it as if our lives depended on it.


seventysomething now has its own Facebook page. I will be posting the blog there as well as poetry and other work by wonderful artists. Please Like the new page. 

Please share seventysomething with other interested parties. I welcome your comments on email, Facebook or on this blog. If you do not have a gmail account, comment as Anonymous, but please tell me who you are in the body of the remarks. Click on comments (it will say how many there are), select Anonymous from the drop-down menu, enter your comment and hit publish. If you do comment, I will respond on the blog, so please check back so our conversation can continue.