Creative: Time with an Elder

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Had a nice, long conversation with a 93-year-old last night. She was sharp as a tack. Hell, sharper than me. By a longshot. She’s made her living as a painter since she was seven. Yes, seven. She also convinced her father, at 55, to abandon his career and succumb to his love of art. He did and became a wildly successful artist in the United Kingdom.

She told me a story of her father going in for surgery, during a period when the family lived in the NYC/Boston area. Her route home from school was a combination of trains and trolleys. On this night she missed the last trolley to the hospital. “So,” she said. “I went out on that six-lane highway and I put my thumb out.” “I went hitchhiking,” she laughed. But then she added something that made me write this post.

“You could do that back then, trust people.”

This is SUCH a telling remark and one I’ve heard throughout my lifetime. It always makes me slightly angry. Not the fact someone said this, but in the fact it’s true. But why, why, why is this still true when every single one of us knows we could change. If we wanted to. We were more trustworthy. We did live in a safer world. We did seem to have many fundamental, human advantages we no longer enjoy.

Driving around Santa Fe this morning I’m seeing apartments surrounded by gates, razor wire, security cameras, and threatening signs. I’m seeing parked cars with broken rear windows and I’m seeing shoppers in violent frenzies fighting each other as they attempt to buy needless shit. And I wonder how we got there, but more importantly, how we right the ship?

It feels like as a collective we have given up. Surrendered to our own personal narratives while forgetting to read the main body of text. The text of being human. Of being one of many, locked in Tetris like blocks that form our world. We are isolated islands in a, literally, rising sea.

For some reason, this place, New Mexico makes me want to get involved. Makes me want to stop what I’m doing and join the peaceful resistance of complacency and the idea that we are all dealt a hand we cannot change. I believe we can trade in our cards and deal again. In fact, I believe we have to. One more thing, the car that ended up giving her a ride…was driven by the doctor who had performed the surgery on her father earlier that day.

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  1. Hey Dan,

    Really good post. Here’s my $.02 worth.

    As I write this, I’m hurtling at 425 MPH, about 38,000 feet somewhere over New Mexico. I’m headed for a layover in LA and ultimately I’ll reach Tokyo in about 15 hours. I’ve been ruminating this post over in my mind since I read it.

    You and I have had discussions about the current condition we find ourselves in. It’s far too easy for me to be angry with, and show my disdain for, the human race. I’ve been known to fall into the anger trap. When I fall into that trap, I negate everything I’m about to write. I fall into it too much for my own liking and as the old adage says, “one aw shit, wipes out a thousand attaboys.”

    I know that there are people who can change the world in big ways. I’m not one of them. I do, however, have a fundamental belief that what I can do is influence my sliver of the world, no matter how tiny that sliver is. It’s not always easy. And I don’t always succeed. I always try. And while these sliver of good ripples get waylaid on their way out, I’m pretty sure a few of them get through. And that’s what I can do. I can try to put as many of the good ripples out there as I can.

    A smile, some courtesy and respect go a very long way no matter where you are in the world. I’ve seen it and I’ve lived it. For me that is truth. It’s my little sliver. I don’t know what works for anyone else, but this works for me and it’s my way to combat the tide of the surrender “to our own personal narratives.” It’s not much but it’s what I have and it’s my way of writing my “text” on being human.

    1. Post

      Here’s to a good airplane bathroom. I agree, you just have to do what you do, and do it to the best of your ability. Lead by example. Stay positive. Someone told me this morning, “After two years of Trump, the worst case scenario at President, the government is still there.” “It’s broken but it’s still there.” So there is positive in nearly everything. Keep plugging and send me a pic from Japan.

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