Whether you’re watching what the man can do or what the trucks can do, this is indeed an epic video:
I was exchanging emails with a friend about our despair regarding the current political scene. Sure, Obamacare is performing as badly as we all predicted and doing what we knew it would, but so what? Republicans are busy snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, and Americans and their economy seem to be on the verge of implosion. Some days, even though you believe in the silver lining, somehow the only thing you can see is the cloud.
And that’s why we need posts like this one, to remind us that the silver lining often resides in the individuals we don’t see, rather than in the politicians and politics we do see. Much as Obama would like to deny it, we are a nation of individuals, not of special interest groups and victim classes.
I don’t watch much TV, especially on weekends, so I missed this when it aired in May 2012. It’s still current (or perhaps I should say that it’s timeless) and quite moving:
My teenage son just learned a life lesson, which is that relationships and attitude matter. I can’t get into too much detail here, out of respect for the privacy of those involved, but I can say that my son wanted very much to qualify for something . . . and didn’t. He was devastated by this failure, not so much because he wasn’t picked, but because of the chaotic process that led to him being left out. He didn’t feel as if he’d been cut on the merits, which he could have understood but, instead, felt as if he just hadn’t connected with the decision-makers enough for them even to look at his merits.
Still, he had two things on his side right from the start. The first was that he had great attitude throughout the process. The decision-makers may have been poorly organized, but my son was always there, always on time, always striving, always engaging with people to learn how to improve. He radiated “I want this.” The second thing he had going for him was that he’d formed a good relationship with someone who, while not in charge, has pull. Moreover, my son hadn’t formed that relationship to use this person. Instead, he’d formed it because he genuinely respects and likes the person with pull, and that feeling was reciprocated. It was a true mentorship.
The one other thing my son learned was that he had me on his side. I know myself enough now not to react quickly, because my thoughts are ill-formed and my emotions high. That’s when I go charging in like a maddened bull. It took me a few decades, but I figured out that, while the general rule is that one should strike when the iron is hot, my iron needs to cool down a little or else I just burn myself.
As it happened, I’ve also got a nice relationship with my son’s mentor. Once I got my thoughts lined up, I very politely approached the mentor, told him that I was confused by my son’s version of events (which I described in non-emotional terms), and asked if he could discover for me the viewpoint of the other people involved, especially the decision-makers. No pressure, no expectations, no putting him in an uncomfortable position.
The end result is that my son is being reconsidered this coming week, in part because the decision-maker did notice his good attitude and in part because his mentor hustled for him. Even better, my son is remarkably sanguine about the strong possibility that he still might not get what he wants. What matters to him is that he’s being considered on the merits, instead of feeling as if he was thrown around on a high tide of disorganization and then just tossed out without any regard for his abilities and commitment.
A friend of mine who is wise in the ways of leadership told me this when I first heard about my son’s predicament: “One of the leadership lessons I try to teach is the fact that leadership is all about relationships. Many leaders never get this and have little to no understanding of their impact on those around them.”
Truer words were never spoken. Once my son understood that there was a relationship that involved him being seen as a real person, he was able to face cheerfully whatever consequences came his way.
I’ve spoken before at my blog about leadership. Because my kids are so involved in so many sports, I’m fascinated by those coaches that inspire the kids — and equally fascinated by those coaches who know what they’re doing, and who love the sport, but who never succeed in bring the kids along with them. My friend is right that it’s about relationships. But my son learned today that relationships run in two directions. If you want a leader to be there for you, you also have to be there for the leader. And unless someone is manifestly a dangerous enemy (whether to your person or to other aspects of your life), treat them in a friendly way and with respect, both because it will make your world a happier place and because you never know what will matter at the end of the day. Don’t use people, but do appreciate them.
I was watching a high school soccer game (our side won), and letting my mind wander a bit, when Proverbs 15:17 popped into my mind: “Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.”
Isn’t that lovely? It’s also a pithy piece of wisdom that is as true now as it was when written down thousands of years ago.
Do you have a favorite Biblical passage that reminds you what’s important in life? (And no fair citing John 3:16, because I know that trumps all other passages.) After all, one of the reasons the Bible lives on today is because of its timelessness, not just when it speaks directly to man’s relationship with God, but also when it speaks to man’s relationship with his fellow man or with his inner needs and drives.
This may be the best “welcome, freshmen, to your new school” speech I’ve ever heard. It’s too bad he gave it to a completely bewildered, minimally responsive audience.
One of the regular shticks on Jay Leno’s show is for a comedian “take over” one of those gas pump news outlets that have popped up all over, and to surprise people who are peacefully pumping gas. When Will and Monifa Sims pulled up, however, the shtick went from lame (which it invariably is) to just wonderful. Watch and enjoy:
And Part II (where you get to meet them):
(I originally wrote this one for Mr. Conservative, but it deserves a place at the Bookworm Room table, if for no other reason than the martial arts slant.)
America is such a great country. Where else would a stalker who’s viciously mugging his victim be scared off by a Mormon bishop who wields a Samurai sword, collects DNA, and memorizes license plates? The thug who had the misfortune to cross paths with Bishop Kent Hendrix was so frightened that he turned himself in later the same day.
It all began in Salt Lake City early Tuesday morning, when Hendrix’s teenage son banged on his dad’s bedroom door to say that someone was being mugged right in front of their house. A 35-year woman living in the neighborhood had been stalked by 37-year-old Grant Eggersten, a former co-worker. He grabbed her as she was leaving her house, knocked her down, and went after her keys. Fortunately, the intended victim had pepper and a panic alarm, and she used them both.
An older neighbor with the heart of a lion saw what was going on, and grabbed a little baseball bat. Nancy, another neighbor who witnessed what was happening, said that this bold lady “ended up whacking him a good one.” Unfortunately, Eggersten was undeterred. Hendrix’s appearance on the scene changed the dynamic.
It turns out that Hendrix isn’t just a Mormon bishop, father of six, and pharmaceutical statistician. He’s also a martial arts instructor with a 4th degree black belt in Kishindo martial arts, a weapons-based martial arts discipline. The moment Hendrix heard what was happening, he grabbed the 29” long, high-carbon-steel Samurai sword he keeps by his bed in lieu of a baseball bat, and headed out of the house.
On the street, Hendrix discovered what he called a “melee” between the woman and Eggersten. While Hendrix’s son called 9/11, Hendrix drew his sword, something he never expected to do. He later said “This is my home defense weapon. First time I’ve had to draw it.” Hendrix didn’t even have to attack Eggersten with the sword. Instead, he just waved it at Eggerston and ordered him to drop to the ground.
According to an interview Hendrix later gave, “His eyes got as big as saucers and he kind of gasped and jumped back. He’s probably never had anyone draw a sword on him before.” Eggersten ignored Hendrix’s instruction to hit the ground and, instead, jumped into his car. Hendrix then had the presence of mind to pick up a ChapStick that Eggersten had dropped and to memorize his license plate.
It’s entirely possible that Eggersten heard Hendrix as the latter hollered after the car, “Ha! I’ve got your DNA and I’ve got your license plate. You are done.” After all, why else would Eggersten turn himself into the police an hour later, where he was booked for robbery, trespassing, attempted burglary, and violation of a stalking injunction?
Aside from being a great story about a neighborhood that hung together; a very possessed, responsible 14-yeear-old boy, and a rockin’ Mormon bishop, Hendrix’s heroism also demonstrates that weapons are a force for good when they are held in the hands of good people. Despite owning a significant sword collection – and knowing how to use it – Hendrix does not go around randomly or malevolently stabbing and beheading people. Instead, consistent with his lifestyle, he uses his martial chops for pleasure and to be of service to others. As between a responsible gun owner and Bishop Hendrix, there is no meaningful difference – which may explain why, for the first time in a decade, Americans are becoming increasingly supportive of a gun in the home as the best tool for self-defense.
I awoke in the night with a song stuck in my head and a post ready for the writing. Then reality intruded. Let me explain….
The song was “It’s a grand night for singing,” from State Fair, a very popular 1945 musical with songs from Rogers and Hammerstein. Aside from the fact that I find the song charming (as I do most songs in old musicals), I’ve also liked the idea that all the people attending a busy state fair simultaneously burst into song to express their happiness:
I was going to go on about the fact that movies aren’t mirrors of a society as actually is, but that they often reflect a what a society wishes it was. In the old days, people who wouldn’t be caught dead singing in public nevertheless liked the idea that people would express joy quite publicly through song.
The next stop in my planned post would have been to point out that today’s movies, to the extent they mirror a society’s collective self-image or desires, reveal how far our societal goals — what we want to be, not necessarily what we are — have fallen. Movies today are frantic, cynical, crude, hyper-sexual, etc. I was going to wrap up with a rousing “Is this what we have become? Is this all that we, as a society, dream of for ourselves?”
All of which is true. But I suddenly realized that I was wrong about one very fundamental thing: We have finally achieved the Hollywood vision of 1945.
You see, thanks to the flash mob phenomenon, just as Hollywood once imagined in movies, people all over the world are expressing joy in public by bursting into song. What Americans dreamed of in 1945, the whole world is doing in 2013. That’s a hopeful sign, isn’t it? In at least one innocent, joyful way, we are becoming the best side of ourselves, as we envisioned ourselves long ago.
I have a new post up at PJ Lifestyle, and I would like it to get as much readership and distribution as possible, because it’s about a very special young man and a very important topic:
Autism is a painfully mysterious syndrome. We don’t know what causes it, although we do know that about 1 in 88 births will produce an autistic child. We know that it’s the fastest growing developmental disability in America, although we don’t know why. The commonly-used treatments have limited effectiveness, so increasing numbers of adult autism sufferers cannot care for themselves, requiring costly life-long maintenance.
Part of autism’s mystery lies in the nature of the condition itself: in its most severe form, it leaves the autistic person entirely unable to communicate, either verbally or physically. It’s not just that someone with autism cannot speak. As most who have lived with or seen autism know, a child with serious autism seems entirely disconnected. Autistic children do not make eye contact and they don’t play. Instead, they flap their hands, roam around a room’s periphery, engage in endless repetitive activities, and seem locked away in their own world.
Some experts contend (erroneously, as it turns out) that autistic children dislike physical contact, cannot emote, and lack the capacity for loving. This seeming emotional isolation led the misogynistic Bruno Bettelheim to conclude that mothers caused autism when they (allegedly) withheld affection from their child. This wrongheaded theory inspired generations of loving mothers to suffer enormous guilt.
Even though Bettelheim has mercifully fallen by the wayside, non-verbal autism still contains many questions. This mystery is about to undergo a significant challenge, though, due to Ido (pronounced “Ee-doh”) Kedar, a 16-year old young man who has written about his journey from isolation to communication in Ido in Autismland: Climbing Out of Autism’s Silent Prison.
Read the rest here.
O Holy Night is my favorite Christmas carol. In an earlier post, I put up a video of Josh Groban singing it. Old Buckeye responded with a link to this beautiful rendition by Ernie Ford (whom I always knew just as a funny guest on the I Love Lucy show, and Gordon MacRae, one of my favorite sing movie stars of the late 40s and early 50s. It’s so lovely, I had to share it with you.
I have to admit that having Obama for another four years in the White House, having Harry Reid serve as Majority Leader for another two to four years (at least) in the Senate, and having Israel poised on the brink of a major war with another Iranian proxy, doesn’t give me that warm, comfy feeling that I’d like for Thanksgiving.
Having said that, there is still so much for which I am thankful, ranging from the micro (my own life) to the macro (the world outside my home).
Starting small, I’m thankful for my family, including both family by blood and by marriage; for my friends in the “real” and the cyber worlds; for my health; for my dog who is a daily delight to me; for my lovely home; ; and for the delightful community in which I live. These people may have gotten the wrong end of the political stick, but they are still fine human beings. I wish for them the blessing of an open mind.
And going big, I’m thankful that America, although a bit wobbly now, is still the land of the free and the home of the brave. I’m thankful that Israel has an Iron Dome system and that she, unlike her enemies, believes that innocent lives are not cannon fodder. I’m thankful that we have the best military in the world, not just because it is well armed, but because it is well staffed, with courageous men and women who willing undergo the rigors of training and service to help defend America.
We know that eight years of President Obama will change this country, but I’m also thankful for a Constitution that may work to prevent the “fundamental transformation” of a country that has been a shining beacon for so long. I haven’t given up hope yet and the mere fact that all of you come here means that you haven’t either. We still have a lot for which to be thankful, and many reasons for hope.
Fall is my favorite time of year. It always has been. Spring is beautiful and exciting — for nature. As a spectator, it’s one of the finest shows our world has to offer. But it’s fall that is the season of possibilities for people.
Fall is when the harvest is in and people start focusing on themselves, rather than the land’s demands. We see this in the fact that, all over the Western world, school starts in the fall. I know that I was always excited when the new school year started. Summer’s pleasures had long since waned, with my delight in its freedoms having been overtaken by the stresses of dealing with a completely unstructured life. We children were bored and overwrought.
The school year meant new clothes, thanks to the back-to-school sales. It meant spanking new school supplies, including fresh new Pee Chee folders. My delight in the new school year wasn’t solely mercenary, though. I always felt as if I was opening a gift box. I knew what would be in it — students and teachers — but I didn’t know the specifics. Every year I was certain that this year would be the perfect social year. This year would be the year I got a boyfriend. This year would be the year I’d finally understand math. This year would be the year when my teachers would dazzle me and I would dazzle them right back. Showing that hope springs eternal, even though each school year was a disappointment (not a terrible disappointment, but still a disappointment), each fall I’d be back to feeling that same old thrill as I stood on the cusp of a new school year.
The American political scene also reflects this time of fall renewal. Because America was a rural country, our federal election cycle really gets running when the harvest is in. The agrarian calendar said that this is the time when people can read and think about the issues that are most important to them. Certainly for me, a lifelong bookworm, fall is a wonderful time for contemplation. The days draw in early, the air is chilly and, if you’re lucky, a fire crackles in your fireplace. All that’s needed is a book, newspaper, or magazine, and perhaps a warm dog and a cup of hot chocolate. Then, you’re ready to take on the heavy intellectual tasks you avoided during the long, summer days, with their endless enticements for outdoor activities.
I am not sufficiently conversant with Jewish history to know why the Jews placed their new year in the fall, right around the time of the fall equinox. All I know is that, for 5,773 years, Jews have seen this season as a time, not of endings, but of beginnings. To me, it certainly seems like a more natural time for a new year than a day buried halfway through the dead of winter.
Tonight is Erev Yom Kippur, the evening before the Jewish day of atonement (which follows swiftly on the heels of Rosh Hashannah, the Jewish New Year). Yom Kippur is the holiest of holy days in the Jewish calendar. On this day, Jews the world over take an honest look at themselves, judging their behavior against the standards G*d has set for them. It’s a solemn day, but it too is part of fall’s renewal. We cannot move forward into the new year if our souls are weighed down by our sins and our minds darkened by our inability to repent and change.
I am not in school any more, and I am not a religious Jew. Nevertheless, I still carry within me the optimism and hope that I feel every fall. This feeling buoys me as I look at the world situation, which is scary, and I look at our American president, who is scary. I feel as if we are reaching a crisis, and that’s scary too. But crises can be cathartic, and the timing on this one is peculiarly good because Americans in this wonderful fall season are being given the chance to examine their past decisions, repent of them, and beginning something fresh and new.
I want to talk about Kate Middleton. She is, in my humble opinion, an exceptionally lovely young woman. Her father-in-law may have chosen his wife badly, but her husband did a fine job. To begin with, she and Prince William genuinely seem to like each other, which is a rarity in royal relationships. She’s also take to her professional responsibilities like a duck takes to water, showing a lot more class than many of those born to the purple. And, as I said, she’s lovely:
To add to her undoubted physical beauty, Kate has a lovely air about her. She looks wholesome and, whenever she’s fulfilling her royal duties, she seems honored to have the opportunity to see the things she sees and meet the people she meets. There’s always a look of wonderment about her, which is very attractive.
So, contrary to my usual feeling when celebrities get caught with their pants down or, in Kate’s case, with their shirts off, I am not experience any schadenfreude at her humiliation (something that she’s also handling with grace). With most celebrities, one feels that, since they spend their entire lives courting the camera, they can scarcely complain when it doesn’t always work out. Also, one often gets the feeling that the celebrity pictures are like the pictures of Dorian Gray, with the real image hiding away in the closet. When the real image shows up, one isn’t surprised.
With Kate having been spied upon at a private retreat in France, though, I do feel as if something lovely is being unfairly sullied. I’m showing my solidarity with her by boycotting the images (which I assume are on the internet somewhere). Kate is gorgeous when she’s clothed, and I have no desire to invade her privacy and increase her humiliation by checking her out unclothed.
While I’m talking about lovely things (which serve as a much-needed antidote to the news these days), someone sent me a link to a site called the Folio Society. I am, as the name of my blog suggests, a bibliophile. Lately, because it’s convenient, I’ve been doing most of my reading on a Kindle — it’s cheap, it’s easy, it’s quick, and it’s compact. Truly, though, there is nothing like a beautiful book.
When I was in college, I worked at the Bancroft Library, at UC Berkeley, which houses a collection of rare books and incunabula. When work was slow, my friends and I used to go down into the vault and look at the illuminated medieval manuscripts. And when I say “look at,” I really mean it. We’d grab some tissues to protect the vellum from the oils on our fingers, and carefully flip through the pages, pouring over the brilliant images. The books were amazing. The colors (often including gold leaf) looked as if they had been applied minutes before. This is one of the reasons that, when I read about the Middle Ages, I am always able to imagine that time in vivid, living color.
The Folio Society does not offer illuminated manuscripts, which is just as well, because they’re very hard to take care of. Instead, the create special editions of famous books, including copies of Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts. My fingers actually tingled when I saw the pictures. The books are beautifully bound, with exquisite illustrations, either by the original artists or by well-known illustrators. The Alice in Wonderland books, for example, look as if they were just taken off the shelves of a Victorian bookstore. As with those medieval manuscripts at the Bancroft, there’s a wonderful sense of immediacy with these books. The Beatrix Potter collection is also exquisite.
The books are very expensive, but I suspect that, for some, the rewards are great. My introduction to Victorian literature came about because my father had found at an estate sale a special edition of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. It was a large book (probably 8″ x 11″) and had these gorgeous, gloomy, full-page engravings. I was mesmerized by the engravings as a little girl, and kept taking the book down to look at them. Eventually, of course, I had to read the book, which started my love affair with all things Victorian. A Kindle book can never offer this kind of enticement to an inquisitive child.
Do you have something lovely to offer as a sop to today’s news? Pictures, videos, anecdotes, etc., would all be welcome.
There are a few things I’ve read or heard that have completely changed the way I live my life. The first and most important was Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends and Influence People. His light, accessible prose completely changed my life. I started looking at the people around me, not as adversaries whom I had to fight for resources (including such intangibles as friendship and popularity), but as collaborators in a giant project that sees all of us wanting to get ahead. I am not exaggerating when I say that I became a nicer, kinder person overnight, and, moreover, one who truly believes that the majority of people I meet are interesting and have something good to offer me if I’m willing to be generous in return. By the way, being generous doesn’t necessarily mean money. It can mean interest, respect, friendship, friendliness, or myriad non-monetary ways to let people know you value them.
The next important thing I read was Nevil Shute’s A Town Like Alice, a book that helped me gain a bit of perspective about the (to me) overwhelming life choices I was making in my 20s. My copy has disintegrated, and I have not bought another one, so pardon any errors I make as working from my memory here. The book’s structure is a little unusual, as the narrator, Noel, is the lawyer for a young woman named Jean Paget. He meets her after the war because he is the executor of a will that leaves her a legacy.
The first part of the book has Jean describe to Noel her experiences as a prisoner of war held by the Japanese in Malaya, a time of great hardship and personal tragedy. The second part of the book is about Jean’s life after the war, and the way in which her wartime experiences end up profoundly influencing not only her life, but many other people’s lives as well.
At the end of the first half of the book, when Jean sees herself facing a bleak and lonely future, she concludes her narrative to Noel by saying “four years of my life wasted.” Noel responds to the effect that we can never tell which of our life experiences truly matter. The second half of the book, of course, shows the truth in Noel’s observation.
For me, Noel’s simple statement was a stunning truth: I cannot control the future. My responsibility is to make the best decisions I can now, and then to make the best of whatever effects those decisions have upon my life. And that’s all I can do. It was a simultaneously freeing and empowering revelation.
The last important thing I learned actually came by word of mouth, when a friend told me, with regard to my children “catch them being good.” Wow! Viewing my children as great human beings who occasionally fell off the path of goodness was better than viewing them as horrible little monsters who were good only rarely. We now have what I can only describe as a great parent-child relationship, and I do believe they are genuinely good people. How lucky I am.
I’ve read other things that have changed profoundly the way I approach my life, but I cannot summon them to mind as easily as I can the three I describe above. Just yesterday, though, I read something that I might add to my canon of life-changing thoughts. It came from John Hawkins who wrote a post at PJ Media entitled 5 Simple Hacks That Changed My Life.
What John describes are intellectual approaches to changing the way you view ordinary life experiences such as receiving criticism, making decisions, facing up to mistakes, etc. Each of his suggestions helps your mind overcome its baser instincts (those being, for example, dealing with criticism through attack or collapse; dealing with difficult decisions by avoiding them entirely; or refusing to address mistakes because it’s too emotionally painful to do so). Everything John writes is simple to understand and easy to undertake, but all five of his approaches enable us to bypass the barriers we erect in our own lives. I urge you to read it.
Also, I would love it if you would share with me any simple, yet profound, insights that enabled you to deal with problems, turn your life around, achieve greater happiness, etc. I am a big believer in reprogramming my brain so that I use new ideas to overcome old problems that arise from my personality issues.
I’ve been thinking about death lately. Not in a morbid, depressed way, but in a more philosophical way. Someone fairly close to me, someone I have liked a great deal and respected even more over the years, died recently. The death was neither unexpected nor was it tragic. Her loved ones are handling things with equanimity. They knew what was coming and were able to tell her how loved and valued she was.
As you all know, my religious beliefs live in the vast space between shaky and inchoate. I now question the casual atheism that once characterized my thinking. There are too many unanswered questions about the world to allow me to negate God. Science may clarify the details but it leaves the biggest questions more boldly exposed and completely unanswered. Yes, there was a Big Bang — but what preceded that cataclysmic event? Reason and humility demand that we accept that science most definitely does not have all the answers.
For example, contrary to the hard-line scientists who would consign us to the dust after we die, I believe in immortality. But as with all my religious beliefs, I do not believe in any specific form of immortality, whether a heavenly paradise, reincarnation, or some sort of earthly resurrection at the end of days. I just know that, because humans are truly greater than the sum of their chemical parts, there is some divine spark in us that transcends, and survives beyond, corporeal death.
There is one aspect of immortality, though, that is provable, never mind the fact that it lives in the realm of the intangible: Memory. My father died almost twenty years ago, but there is a part of my brain that is entirely dedicated to him. I see him vividly in my mind’s eye and I hear his voice. When I act upon the lessons he taught me, I am completely aware of his presence. English was his passion, and every word I write is the living, immortal embodiment of that part of him.
The woman who died recently left behind a great many loved ones. She always felt triumphant about the fact, because each descendant (and there are many) is a great big, fat raspberry blown in Hitler’s direction. Hitler is dead and gone, and was incapable of immortalizing himself through his DNA, but this lady, despite losing her parents to the Holocaust and being herself at risk, founded a dynasty. A vast, vibrant, live-loving dynasty.
That same dynasty that keeps her immortal through shared DNA will also keep her immortal in memory. Every person carries in his or her memory a little piece of her. At first, this little piece can be painful. Every memory is a burning reminder of the recent loss. With time, though, these same memories become very comforting. As I know from my Dad, these memories mean you are never alone. The person is an integral part of you and your relationship to the world around you. More than that, if you have children, you pass down those memories through the stories you tell and the lessons you teach. They may not know the man, but they know his memory.
Whether through genes or our acts alone, those of us who venture out into the world, gathering around us friends and family, are fortunate enough to be assured of immortality.
The friend who sent this video to me noticed what’s so fascinating: the pragmatic approach the Brazilian rescuers had. Without any undue energy or hysteria, they just waded into the surf and did what needed to me done:
My mother is a testament to the wonders of modern medicine. But for the drugs, surgery, and implanted equipment upon which she relies, she would have been dead a long time ago. Perhaps even more importantly, to the extent that she’s not dead, she has a fairly good quality of life. Thanks to cataract surgery and high tech glasses (trifocals, anti-glare coating, etc.), she has twenty-twenty vision. Thanks to teeny little hearing aids that are practically invisible, she’s not deaf. Thanks to state-of-the-art pain medicines, delivered via state-of-the-art technology, she tends to forget that she once suffered from chronic pain. She also takes medicines that control the pain and nausea associated with all the other medicines she takes just to stay alive. She is a walking wonder.
What’s truly amazing about my mother is that she takes all of this for granted. She is peculiarly unimpressed that modern medicine has her alive and functioning, even though she’s basically held together by glue and spit. She’ll periodically complain about past or present sufferings, but I never hear from her an awed exclamation about the absence of pain in her life, or about the joy of twenty-twenty vision, or about the pleasure of hearing her grandchildren’s voices, or about the fact that she’s alive at all.
I’m quite different from my mother in this regard. I’m am constantly overwhelmed by the wonders and miracles that see me alive and kicking (and doing some pretty damn fine kicking on my good days, if I do say so myself).
Modern medicine means that, a long time ago, when I needed emergency surgery, I got that surgery rather than hemorrhaging to death.
Modern medicine means that I didn’t die when I was delivering one of my children, despite the fact that things went wrong. And thanks to the epidural I had, not only did I not die, but I didn’t even realize that something had gone wrong. (The kid was all right too!)
Modern medicine means that, although nature intended me to be practically blind, I not only see thanks to my glasses but, when I put my contacts in, I look gorgeous and I kick butt at martial arts.
Modern medicine means that, thanks to over-the-counter products, I have ridiculously young looking skin for someone my age. (And yes, I’m boasting.)
And that’s just medicine! I have iPhones and iPads welded to my hands; telephones in every room of my house; cars that talk to me; machines that wash my clothes and my dishes, and then dry them too; a computer system that has me actively connected to most of the world, 24/7; and that’s just the beginning. The wonders of technology permeate every aspect of my life, including the allergy free pillow on which I rest my head at night.
Despite the fact that I grew up in this modern world, something that distinguishes me from my mother, who is old enough to remember little European villages that had no cars, I’ve never become blase about the wonders of science and technology. I am endlessly grateful for the manifest benefits these things have brought to my life.
This sense of gratitude is, I think, part of why I am so proud to be an American, specifically, and part of the western tradition, generally. All human beings have the capacity to create, but it is the West that had the curiosity and America that had the driving competitive energy, to take theory and make it fact. Put another way, man has long dreamed of flying, but it was Orville and Wilbur, two American hobbyists, who made flight a practical reality.
A Susan Boyle-esque surprise on Britain’s Got Talent. Simon Cowell divided his feelings between head and heart. His head’s right, but I’m glad he followed his heart:
UPDATE: I should add that this video is about three years old, but it’s new to me.
I’ve been sitting on this one for a while, because I didn’t want to ill-wish a positive trend, but I’m happy to report that my Mom is doing extremely well. She was in the hospital last week and came out a new woman. For the first time in years (perhaps decades) she’s . . . oh, I don’t know how to say it, but alive. She hasn’t had her youth restored, but she’s had some of her personality and vitality brought back. For so many years I’ve been dealing with a depressed, anxious, angry, paranoid, neurotic, hypochondriacal sick person, that it’s just amazing to walk into the room and see a fairly alert, rather sweet little old lady. I’m not sure what alchemy happened at the hospital during her last stay there; I just know it made her, and therefore me, happy. No matter how much longer this lasts, even if only a few more days, I’m celebrating each moment.