Sunday, November 29, 2009

Afraid To Face The Preordained

We’re born, we grow up, we get old, we die.
We’re uninformed, we learn, we teach, we leave.

Why is it that so many people have so much trouble with that concept?
As if it were a sentence, rather than an opportunity?

Chasing the brass ring of youth has become the biggest business in America, and the greatest social indulgence. Don’t take my word for it, do your own research, open your own eyes.

What if everybody in America quit spending money on ‘Youth Enhancement’ products and procedures, and donated those billions (yes, billions) to a general fund (not the government) that would provide education, health care, and other social services to the general population? Seems like everybody is always complaining that there is never enough money for those necessities, but Americans always seem to have enough money to get their hair colored, their teeth whitened, their faces stretched, their lips plumped, eyebrows plucked, nails done, bodies tanned, breasts enhanced, cheeks implanted, wardrobes updated, personal trainers paid, and gym memberships extended. When it comes to trying to look as young as we once were, the sky seems to be the limit.
Women carry the torch of this phenomena, always have, but men are just as vain, and just as compelled as women to morph their own reality into a look and image that has long ago passed them by (the ‘red sports car’ syndrome). There are just as many products and procedures for men these days as there are for women. And men take full advantage of their availability. Hair implants, calf and peck implants, facelifts, hair dye, male enhancement pills, creams and pumps. Moisturizers. MOISTURIZERS. Please!
The list goes on.

In this bourgeoning youth culture, everybody is so afraid of being left behind that they jump on the wagon as quickly as a life-long-alcoholic might fall off it. But hey, I got an idea. How bout’ if everybody over forty stand up, and in unison, throw a middle finger in the face of the creators and marketers of this ignorant and fallacious belief that youth is greater than age. Throw a finger in their face, then take your cupboard full of Youth Enhancement products and throw them on a collective bonfire in the middle of Madison Ave., and in a similar pile on Hollywood Blvd.
Then, take the middle finger on the other hand and throw it in the face of all the people under thirty who actually believe that they’re smarter, more experienced, more valid, and more valuable than those who are older. People need to stop acquiescing to the stupidity, the inexperience, and the ‘potential’ of youth. Youth is just that, ‘potential’. Just because a twenty four year-old, or a five-year-old, can text, send a picture of himself from his cell phone, and pick his nose at the same time does not negate his disturbing inability to engage in critical thinking or meaningful self reflection. Just because he’s technologically connected 24/7 does not necessarily mean he’s able to connect with another human being in any kind of meaningful way, or that he will even understand that he is actually just being led around by the technological ring in his proverbial nose.
For those of you over 40, (or 50, or 30 even), how about having the courage to accept your age, embracing it with dignity, realizing the privilege of your experience, and wearing it proudly without apology?

Does anybody get that when parents are competing with their children in the ‘youth and attractiveness’ arena that the children are building a continuing resentment towards those same parents? When parents put self-emphasis on the external, rather than the internal, do they not understand that they are subjugating themselves to the myth of youth, rather than embracing the dignity of age? Do those parents expect their children to admire them, or want to be like them? The natural evolution of family is that children grow up wanting to be like their parents . . . . . . . . . . . if, in fact, they respect them. When a child sees the parent wanting, and trying, to be like the child, what is there left for the child to respect? Mothers competing with their daughters produce daughters competing with their mothers, rather than giving the child a mother she can rely on for wisdom and guidance. What’s so good about that? We’re robbing the children of the traditional role models they would have, otherwise, been able to trust . . . . . the parents. And what does it say about a 40 year-old parent wanting to look like her own 15 year-old daughter? I won’t even get into that.

You say, “But I don’t have any kids, what’s wrong with wanting to look young?” And I say “What’s wrong with looking your own age? What’s wrong with not deceiving the people you meet? Why does that scare you so terribly?” If you want to continue contributing to the age, and mentality, reduction of our culture, fine, then you will continue to live with the personal frustration of your search for the unattainable Fountain of Youth. And you will continue contributing to the dumbing down of America for the rest of us. Maybe that’s where you’re comfortable, I don’t know. But some of us have more respect for the rest of us than that.

Don’t be afraid of how you look. Be afraid of not being yourself.

“We’re born, we grow up, we get old, we die.
We’re uninformed, we learn, we teach, we leave.

Why is it that so many people have so much trouble with that concept?
As if it were a sentence, rather than an opportunity?”

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Where Mountain Meets The Sky

My wife and I worked together yesterday around the property, dragging branches to the burn pile, cutting, hauling and stacking wood for next years winter. It was a beautiful sunny day beneath miles of clear blue, a small corner of paradise where mountain meets the sky, gateway, to be sure, to an equally profound, but still mysterious universe. It was cool at 3,300 feet, but not really cold. A storybook crisp autumn morning, ushering in, by design it seemed, a warm lazy afternoon. My dog, Chica, was darting about, jumping over logs, running the length of them, on top of them, like a squirrel on a Conifer highway, then leaping to the ground like she were auditioning for the lead role in Adventures of the Amazing Log Dog.

In the evening, after a satisfying meal, we sipped wine, and soaked our weary bodies in the hot tub on the deck, absorbing the starlit night sky while it worked its ethereal magic like a private light show just overhead, barely beyond reach. A blanket of blinking, pulsating luminescence as far and deep as is humanly possible to even realize, beckoned our attention, and captured our imagination. We counted shooting stars until we ran out of numbers. I looked back through the window, into an otherwise dark house, to see a quaint fire crackling romantically in the wood-burning stove throwing red and amber hues around the room.

Throughout the day, and well into the night, I would stop for brief moments to reflect, to try and understand how I had landed here in such a place, how it became entrusted to me, how it has all been laid at my feet like treasure being brought before a king. I do not, did not, feel like a king, ever. Life was never easy for me. And it was never about the pursuit of pleasure, never even about the pursuit of comfort. This place, however, gives me pleasure and comfort beyond what should even rightfully be mine.

When we first found this home, I remember telling someone that I had done nothing to deserve this. I did (do), however, acknowledge that no blessing, or gift, is ever really deserved anyway. Good things are given out of love, to the deserving, and to the undeserving alike, just as how the rain continues to fall on both the just, and on the unjust.

I am thankful for this gift.
And I am humbled by its impact on my life.

The sun is rising slowly this morning, just beyond the ridge, bathing the sky in warm color once again, like the fire did last night on this side of the window.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Shapes And Shadows

It’s foggy here this morning, overcast and cloudy, gray as the shade of my own perspective. The sun has yet to rise, with this thick generous shroud reminding me of a down blanket having been thrown lovingly across a quietly emerging sky. The trees, however, otherwise green and brilliant gold, are silhouetted now, dark against the sky, illuminating the private side of their mysterious existence. They reach heavenward, as all living things do, but loom menacing in the darkness when reduced to only shape and shadow.

Night creatures tend to reduce themselves to shape and shadow in order to co-exist with the darkness.
I bet you think I’m going to make some comments now about human nature.
Who me?

All things become self-evident in the light. Trees display their color, their texture, their leaves or needles, their bark, their acorns, their pinecones or buds. They exhibit the most general, as well as the smallest detail of their species, their structure, their age, their personality even. The light glistens and dances off the leaves when they’re damp, and reflects their brilliance like the sound of the trumpet echoes the passionate breath of Miles Davis. Every scar is revealed in the light, every new growth, every bend from the wind, every broken branch, every area of death or decay. The health of the tree is made manifest by its patent visibility. You cannot see the tree and not see its condition.
But even the humbled, the broken down, the splintered, the fractured, the diseased and dying, they retain an inexplicable splendor.

And so it is with people.
It is the innate character of God.

The night hides that character like a burka hides
the beauty of a woman.