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23 August 2007

The familiar.

Out of the corner of my eye I notice my cat crossing the room and know she is a witch's cat. A slinking, dark kitty, in her life I am the only one she has befriended.

I stir my chemist's pot of bubbling brew, happy for her company.

My familiar.

17 August 2007

Questions of Value.

Questions of Value is my current Teaching Co. course (Prof. Patrick Grim). The third lecture addresses what we value in a life, asks us to think about what we think is a good life. Is a good life one that is prized, or is it one that is praised? A life that is enviable, or one that is admirable?

The enviable life is one full of endless enjoyment, parties, and pleasure (think Paris Hilton). Viewed from inside this life, it is full of good fun, and some people value this type of life above all others. In contrast, the life that is admirable is one that people on the outside consider a life of value. "He is a good person." It's sometimes a life of self-sacrifice for the good of others. (Think of Ghandi, or Sister Theresa).

Consider these two types of "good" lives. In my opinion, it is important for us to take time occasionally to consider or re-consider our goals. Am I after worldly goods, items that offer me comfort or are that are the current fad, or would I rather act in ways that help other people, even if it means self-sacrifice?

In the end, Prof. Grim and I agree that a happy medium is the best: Help others, and also work to make your own days pleasurable.

Take some time now and then to make sure that your life is in balance.

Prof. Grim validated some ideas that have come to me over the years. If you sacrifice to help someone else, you are usually giving that person pleasurable things. Okay. So, you are leading a valuable/admirable life, while helping someone else have a valued/pleasurable life. If the life that is more valued is the one that is admirable, you rob the person you have "helped" of having a valuable life, because all they get to do is sit back and enjoy the pleasurable things you have given them.

Prof. Grim categorized learning for the sake of learning as one of life's pleasures. I've always thought that.

I like the philosophy courses because they give words and validation to many ideas that have drifted across my consciousness all these years.

Back to the philosophical value of a life. I wrote in the above paragraphs that I believe a life of value is some combination of pleasure and hard work and sacrifice; a balance, a constant tug-and-pull of what you feel you should do to help others or society, and what you want to do to please yourself. I think this reflects directly our internal selves, the id and ego as explained in the psychology courses that I have taken. The striving for pleasure while the little voice in the back of your head says you should instead be doing what is "right". You want to eat that brownie, but your conscience tells you that it will make you fat. You want that new pair of shoes, while your conscience tells you that you should save your money and you cannot steal the shoes. On an internal basis, we have not a struggle with a life valued as enviable or admirable, but a struggle within our own self about what will bring us pleasure and what is best for our survival, or what is the proper way to act.

So, what to do? I combine pain and pleasure. Like going to do my work-out: the exercise will be a lot of hard work, but the music flows from my iPod and I feel pleasure. Or I go for a bike ride, and the hard ride is softened by the nifty new bike and I am rewarded by a view of the back range.

bike and back range

14 August 2007

From the mouths of elders.

We were explaining to my mother, who is 90 and has dementia, that her new doctor is a doctor for old people. Then we try to say, "but not really for really old people, we could go to him too . . ." trying to make it sound not so bad. My mother pops out with this:

"There is nothing wrong with being old."

She is so right. In this day and age, at 57 I sometimes feel somewhat apologetic, somewhat traveling towards the outskirts of importance or interest to society because of my age. Sometimes it seems so downright youth-focused in this country that I fall into an aberrant mode of thinking that aging is something to try to hide.

But there is nothing wrong with being old. When I was growing up there was a litany of behaviors that were wrong. A wife must know how to cook, a wife cannot work, babies out of wedlock are unacceptable, don't drink beer, no dates in the house unless your parents are home, do not wear shorts to the market.

It was a black and white world. And being old was one of those things that was not wrong.

It still isn't.

I must digress a little because I want to remember another of my mother's comments that day. She always has had the best sense of humor, to the extent that she would laugh uncontrollably at dinner and my father would send her from the dinner table for laughing (laughing at the table was wrong). She still has that sense of humor, it is natural to her being and I admire her for that. My sister coaxed her up to the doctor's measuring tape so that they could measure her height. She was only 4 foot 11, instead of her young adult height of 5 foot 3. My sister told her: "You are 4 inches shorter" and Mother replied: "I'm sinking". Sinking! We all started laughing. Then Mother added "but that's okay, I guess."

Time to look to put more humor in my own life, and to embrace the wonderful fact that I am getting old. And proud of it.

Here is a picture of my smiling mother at 90.

Mother at 90.

More pictures on the next page.
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