Monday, January 25, 2016

Simple Elegance

I know this is redundant, and yet it appeals as a name for that part of our lives that in the third stage becomes easier, simpler, and therefore more elegant. I am referring to the way we can make decisions, slick as a whistle, unlike younger people - or ourselves when we were younger. I take that back - in the first stage I certainly made quick decisions often enough, just they were way more likely to be oh-so-wrong! Now, because of simple elegance, my batting average is much improved.

One of the advantages of aging is the quantity (and hopefully the quality) of experience we have in our bag of tricks. If we trust that experience, if we assume we now, at last, know what is best for our own selves, then with simple elegance we choose directions, make decisions, and sort futures that, while we might regret feeling unable to choose otherwise, are unwaffled and rarely revisited.

My younger self always tried to choose wisely, but my bag of tricks was small, and my percentage of mistakes large. I spent my middle years stuffing as many outcomes as I could into that bag, and I am happy lugging it around now.  If you have reached your golden years without a big, fat experience bag, you need to get out more! Just sayin'.

The thing is, without necessarily even being conscious of it, we balance our futures on the backs of our experiences. Simple elegance means that confidence in our own council prevents much of the anxiety we might expect moving forward in the third stage. Simple elegance means acceptance of certain contexts that cannot be changed and the ability to yell "bullshit" at others. It means we can compare our own opinions to the world we inherit and easily choose our own futures.

When I grow old I shall wear purple because I want to. Because it is the right color for me. Because my daughter wants me not to. Whatever your reasons, they are your reasons, earned through legions of circumstances over battalions of year. You get to have them and you get to keep them. And that is simply elegant:)

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Dark Goddess Review: "Youth"

Now for something a little different. . .
I love movies, although we don’t go out to many, choosing instead to see them from the comfort of our favorite chairs. But sometimes we still do, and I try to keep an eye out for the entertainment industry’s attempts to attract my dollars with age-appropriate productions, something for the booming boomer trade. Besides, these make a nice contrast with the superhero fare I consume with my grandson and granddaughter. So last weekend Silver Fox and I went to see Paolo Sorrentino’s Youth.
Such a great cast, I was hoping for some real entertainment, insider jokes, witty repartee, shared references. What I found put me off my feed, so to speak – there is nothing light about this movie. In fact, it had a Felliniesque lugubrious quality that slithered its way through a lot of symbolism and possibly metaphorical dialogue I didn’t understand to an ambiguous if not downright depressing ending. I came away not liking any of the characters and wishing we had chosen something else.

We talked about it though, Silver Fox and I. In the car on the way home, again at dinner, again the next day, and I have to say that it did spark a lot of speculation – at least it is speculation on MY part. I have concluded from how much better Silver Fox related that Youth is a dick-flic, and no wonder I was getting nowhere with it. “So, those references to first bike rides, was that a metaphor for getting laid?” “Did they really not remember anything about their parents or is that a denial of emotions, a macho that keeps on giving”? Whatever.

The senior cast is, in spite of what I felt was useless and inane dialogue, superb.

Harvey Keitel is the most likeable of the warhorses, a man coming to his end doing what he loves, writing a successful screenplay, acolytes at his beck and call; and Keitel charms even if he might be just a tetch shallow.

Michael Caine, Keitel’s oldest and best friend, no longer will do what he loves - composing and conducting music, thinks too much, and says too little. It is difficult to get a take on his character, even presented through the eyes of his sometimes-bitter daughter, played by Rachel Weisz. Children never get their parents. Like Cannery Row’s lonely tanked octopi, Caine is “moody, very moody.”

Jane Fonda’s movie queen, the much-heralded Brenda, appears in only one scene, but she steals it and runs as the brassiest bottle-blond bitch of a working woman one could possibly devise.
Yay Jane!

To my chic-flic senses,  the only normal person in the echoing vastness of this Swiss spa setting is the young actor, played by Paul Dano. He is there on a stealth mission to suss out the essence of life from the geezers, and I think he does, abandoning the Hitler role he intended to create for another, healthier approach to his life’s work. Dano’s was the only character I liked, including the other youthful females, who were either irritatingly whiny or without any voice at all – floating in that sea of symbolism that I didn’t get.

Silver Fox related better to the geezers. In fact, he has decided that Youth is a well-crafted and serious look at getting old, a treatise on the value of emotion and the disposition of loss. And perhaps it is.  He would give it more stars than I do. As always and shall ever be, different strokes for different folks. Amen.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Sword of Knowledge: A Metaphor for a Sunny Morning

If life were a role-playing game, I would want first the Sword of Knowledge, to cut my path through the forest of opportunities that springs up wherever I place a foot in my journey. Uncountable decisions, small and large, define our travel through a lifetime. How do we choose?  Why do we choose what we do? Where does each decision take us? What do we learn?

How great would it be to have a magic sword with us, its sharp edge honed by experience and its heft assured by wisdom, to cut away the false and reveal the shining path.

We do, of course, except it is not magic and it is not perfect. We hammer it daily with new knowledge, new insight, and we hope it helps us define our futures, acts as the magic we wish for, shines as our blade of truth. When we are strong and confident it flashes like lightening, blinding in the sun of our certainly. But when we have lost our way, when forests old or new tower and intimidate, when the wrong cut might take us only further into the woods, we are unsure and it becomes heavy and dangerous. The magic in the sword comes from our ability to trust it.

And so, as if I were indeed in a game, I try to collect the skills that will hone my sword to suit, shape it to fit my hand, teach it to fight my particular battles. Since gaining knowledge that leads to wisdom requires all perspectives, like touching the proverbial elephant, I spend a lot of energy trying to diversify and I gather up as many different kinds of equipment as the game offers. For example:

Perception, using your physical senses, and apperception, using your instincts, must both be employed: a map.

Communication through shared experience, language, facial mobility, and touch will help you vet your insights against the knowledge of others: a lantern.

Attention to your own thoughts will give you time to analyze and deconstruct, intellectual skills that help gain perspective on your experience: a shield.

All these and more are the coins you can pick up and carry near your heart to buy that magic sword, to purchase your own destiny, and to wield your very own Sword of Knowledge with confidence.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Holy Symboleering, Batgirl!

Another holiday season, come to an end.

I took down the red bows in my office and put away the snowman, and pretty much things are back to normal. It is true that the skies have been mostly grey this year and the temperatures less than bone-chilling, but I woke from the holiday fugue state into an unexciting and wishy-washy January, unable to make commitments or decisions with any confidence and feeling underwhelmed by the condition of my condition. And barely curious about why.

Putting some time away to think about this, I realize this is always how I feel after a deadline, professional or domestic. From Thanksgiving to Christmas I pack every minute with items off my list of things to do - things I want to do, enjoying each and every one, feeling successful and rewarded if I accomplish 75% of that list and not fall over on my face before the gift exchange. I did that this year, perhaps even 80%, and it was joyous and happy.

Following which, of course, I deserve some down time. This tends to be reading books and watching mysteries on the tube, a drink in the evening to ensure lack of motivation. And I start to make lists for upcoming projects, all of which I am not yet ready to embark upon, not yet, don't care yet. It is easy to sit in my favorite chair in my jammies and make lists but think Not yet, don't care yet. And suddenly it is weeks later and I am feeling unsatisfied and grey.

What I see is that when I am so busy, I don't daydream, don't symboleer, don't look to the universe for direction, and that when I settle down it is easy to forget to begin again. It is like being at the bottom of a circle of hills with no motivation to climb out; comfortable but stranded. How long since I took the long bus to work just to look out the window at the river? How long since I walked to the lake, or even meditated in my own room? The answer is, since before Thanksgiving.

So this morning I took myself to my favorite river view and asked for a sign, and damned if I didn't get one. Holy vision, Batgirl! At least, I can interpret what I saw in terms that relate to my current life, and I choose to act as though I was meant to do this. Symboleering is an important part of pursuing my future, providing the confidence that allows me to act, giving me direction when the choices seem endless, forwarding my agenda with myself and my world. And as I have written before, I can't believe I forgot the whole thing!