ANN’S MUSINGS – Love, Death and the Whole Damn Thing

 

Love and Death, by Hans Baldung Grien (c.1484-1545)

Have you noticed that the conversations you find yourself in are more and more about “What now? What next?” with an undertone of anticipation, urgency and trepidation.

In many ways, we have more choices before us than at any other time in our lives. Yet, we don’t yet know what to do with this freedom. We are also newly but acutely aware of the sand slipping inexorably through the hour glass and the uncertainty about how and when our health or faculties will fail.

I belong to the front end of the baby boom, maybe the only generation that thinks it is going through the life cycle for the first time. We have turned the spotlight on ourselves at each stage as if no one had passed through adolescence or had a baby or lost a parent before. And now, we are at the cusp of what the French call le troisième âge.

About a year ago, a friend proposed that we gather a small group of women to talk about this adventure we don’t really feel ready for, aptly coining the title Love, Death and the Whole Damn Thing.  We are still feeling our way, but have explored the prospect of making the wrong choices in a poem of Wallace Stevens*, the depths of lamentation through music, and what it means to be creative in later life.

We are not alone. Lots of formal and informal groups are joining forces to discover this terra incognita together. Are men doing this? I wonder. At its core, that is what Classical Pursuits is about –  adults (many of us in the second half of life) seeking meaning in the company of others.

Bookshelves and magazine racks groan with advice from 40-year-olds from Beverly Hills telling you how to defeat aging. Steer clear of them. Here are several personal resources I think are particularly worthwhile.

Strange Relation  Rachel Hadas, a poet, translator, essayist, critic, and professor of literature at Rutgers University, had to face the early dementia of her husband, composer George Edwards. Hadas wrote most of Strange Relation during the years when she was living in a zone of deepening silence. Literature was often her most faithful companion, so this is, in part, a book about the books and poetry (hers and others) that helped her live her life. Within the cloudy confines of those murky years, was an essential part of what kept her going. (We met Rachel in Key West in January 2010 where she was part of the Key West Literary Seminar.)

You Could Live a Long Time: Are You Ready?  Lyndsay Green has faced her own aging by seeking the advice of 40 remarkably wise elders on subjects ranging from social connections, self, civic engagement, work, home, body, brain, finances and legacy.  (Lyndsay is a member of Love, Death and the Whole Damn Thing and has been a participant in Toronto Pursuits.)

Staying’ Alive  Michael Adams has written a book that is less prescriptive and more descriptive of how different subgroups of the Boomer population are chosing to work, play and find meaning in their lives. Finding your “tribe” provides reassurance and a sense of satisfying direction. I am what Adams calls a “connected enthusiast.” (Michael has been a sidelines booster of Classical Pursuits from the outset. Hope he soon has time to become an active participant.)

Human Values in Aging Newsletter This monthly electronic newsletter, edited by Harry (Rick) Moody, one of the world’s most respected gerontologists and director of academic affairs for AARP. The newsletter contains a wide-ranging treasure trove of fascinating and inspiring information. Unfortunately, there is no web-based version. To submit items of interest or subscribe, contact:  hrmoody@aarp.org. (When I worked in the field of aging, I was a Rick Moody groupie. I would follow him around at conferences, but he never knew. Finally, I invited him to be a Sage in Residence the summer Toronto Pursuits celebrated its 10th anniversary by devoting the entire program to the late works of writers, artists and composers.)

Sophia Cycles   Some wise folks get started earlier than others contemplating the big question of how to live a meaningful life. Béa Gonzalez is certainly one of these. A highly acclaimed novelist, Béa has chosen to turn her attention to this inward journey and invite others to join her. She offers seminars, organizes events, shares her vast knowledge and resources generously on her blog and she is writing a new kind of book. (Béa has been a discussion leader at Toronto Pursuits and leader of three amazing Travel Pursuits in her native Spain.)

CARPE DIEM!

Whatever your age, how about sharing your own ways and means of dealing with love, death and the whole damn thing?

*The Poems of Our Climate by Wallace Stevens

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5 Comments

  1. Lovely, Ann! It seems to me very healthy and wise to be talking with each other about death, part of the human adventure on earth. My parents have a file folder marked “Death” for the practical issues. We discuss it more gently and subtly simply by letting it be there as part of life!

  2. Yes this is very present to me now. And I’m doing some reading on the subject of “what next” and also looking back over my life. Some different books than those on your list but interesting. This is to me THE subject now. Would love to participate in a group if there’s another one, and depending on the time (still working full-time). What a rich experience that would be.

  3. Larry French says:

    Thanks, Ann, enjoyed the musing and the Stevens poem from the vantage point of le troisième âge bien avancé. Leonard Cohen says the same thing in his poem, Anthem: “Ring the bells that still can ring, Throw off your perfect offering, There is a crack in everything, That’s how the light gets in.”
    Biking through the vinyards north of our village yesterday lit by another, warmer spring sun, I noticed the first buds on the vines, gold all around the edges, hint of green in the centre. This time, it is Frost who says it all: “Nature’s first green is gold, Her hardest hue to hold. Her early leaf’s a flower, But only so an hour. Then leaf subsides to leaf, So Eden sank to grief, So dawn goes down to day, Nothing gold can stay.”
    It’s all there, “the whole damn thing” in eight little lines, and it fills me with delight.

  4. Larry, I love the Frost. You are right, it’s all there in those eight little lines. Thanks so much!

  5. Let’s hear it for LOVE, even, especially, lumpy love. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EQ-wVeUrSl0

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