Old Geezers Out to Lunch

Old Geezers Out to Lunch
The Geezers Emeritus through history: The Mathematician™, Dr. Golf™, The Professor™, and Mercurious™

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Geezers Get Better Gifts

—a short reverie from Mercurious—

Two weeks ago, I celebrated my 57th birthday, which was of course followed by Christmas. While many aspects of progressing through middle age aren't all that appealing, there is one that is better.

Dads who have reached the Geezer years get better gifts.

This might seem counterintuitive, as one thing I've noticed about growing older is that most of us don't want any more stuff. I spend a lot of time these days trying jettison crap from around the house, and I have a rule of thumb nothing comes into the place unless two things leave. In my old age, I've become the opposite of a hoarder. One of my heroes is my wife's grandmother, who, when she died at age 103, could pack up her entire collection of belongings in two small cardboard boxes. A very admirable thing, to lighten your load as you prepare for the final dirt nap.

So you might think that I'm a very difficult guy to shop for, since I don't really want any more stuff. It's actually quite the opposite. These days, I'm quite delighted by four relatively transient and ephemeral things: a dinner or movie out with the immediate family; kindle books (they take up no room at all, blessedly, and I can share them with the entire family); classic movies on blu-ray disk (they take up not much space at all) and a decent bottle of single-malt Scotch (which is, alas, exceedingly temporary and never lasts any time at all).

I scored a trifecta over this holiday, with a boisterous and good-humored birthday dinner out at a good pizza joint with half-price drinks, a boxed set of all the James Bond films on blu-ray, and a nice bottle of surprisingly good 14-year-old Glenrothes Scotch.

Now, I surely enjoyed birthdays in the years where the kids were younger, but it was celebrating the other birthdays in the family that was more fun than celebrating my own. The reality is that once your kids are older and your spouse has given up trying to change you, everybody has come to know your peculiarities a little better, and they rarely give you ties or sweaters that you'll never wear.  And as my kids pointed out, it was hard for them to buy Scotch when they were 8 and 12 years of age.

A peculiar paradox:  wanting less means you get more from life. Excuse me now. A wee dram of the good stuff awaits.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Les Miserable Movie Afternoon: Movies by Mercurious, December 27

Now, it must be said that I'm not a fan of musicals, either on the stage or on screen. So you may want to interpret this review with that knowledge. When The Sound of Music comes onto the tube annually, it is almost physically painful for me to watch it. Recent efforts to tolerate the  Broadway performances of Wicked and Beauty & the Beast performed by excellent touring companies at local stage theaters caused a similar reaction in me.

But there are exceptions to this rule. I was entertained greatly by The Lion King, enough to see the stage play twice; and have been pleased by other stage performances over the years—Camelot, Chorus Line, Cabaret, come to mind. On the screen, I thought Chicago was a lot of fun, and Moulin Rouge was inventive enough that I actually own a Blu-ray copy. I  thought that Rock of Ages was old- fashioned silly fun, much like Bye, Bye Birdie was in its day,  and I admired it for its lack of pretentious self-indulgence.

I had some hopes the Les Miserables might fall into the latter category of tolerable musicals, as the film trailers seemed interesting, and I have some admiration for both Hugh Jackman's range as an action-hero/song-and-dance performer, and young Ann Hathaway's talent. Having never seen a live staging of the play, I attended the film without a lot of preconceived opinions, though I was aware that the Broadway stage play tends to be either adored or loathed.

(As the classic Victor Hugo novel was an all-time favorite for me, after first reading it nearly 40 years ago, the whole idea of turning it into a musical always struck me as rather bizarre. The Nazi gas chambers and the crucifixion of Jesus seem just about as well suited for musical dramatization. I did acknowledge that the potential for Phantom of the Opera silliness was certainly inherent in this play.)

To make a long story short, Les Miz will not enter that short list of good musicals for me. Too long, amateurish lyrics on the bulk of the filler songs, too few really good showcase numbers, a silly alteration of a classic story, all add up to a fairly excruciating Christmas afternoon matinee.

To start with, the film attempted to follow the stage drama too closely, I think, and as a result did not make use of the advantages that film as a medium—to tell story through images rather than words, to imply time symbolically rather than literally, etc. This was the thing the Moulin Rouge and Chicago did so well.

I should not have been surprised, I suppose, that the producers of the film insisted on making the love story the main element of the tale. It was undoubtedly necessary to ensure commercial success, but it also doomed the film artistically.

Those who have read the novel understand that this light love story was not really a central element of the novel.  The Victor Hugo novel I so admire is really mostly about the redemptive power of correct moral choices in circumstances of pain and suffering, a message was sadly diluted by the the dreamy-eyed characters batting their lashes at one another throughout this film adaption.

A peripheral love story is present in the novel, but is quite tangential to the interior moral dilemma within the conflict between  Jean Valjean and Inspector Javert. The novel works on both a psychological level as an examination of personal redemption, and as a sociological comment on class warfare, but traditional romance isn't really a part of it at all. So naturally, the geniuses of American musical theater thought it made great sense to change one of the 10 greatest novels of all time for the benefit of the Entertainment Tonight crowd.

(And if you are going to do something so stupid, I really, really, don't understand why there can't be more genuine poetry in the text of these musicals. Are there really so few talented writers penning for the musical stage these days?  Such text drivel could never get published in obscure academic literary magazines, and it's impossible to understand how big-budget broadway theater can be written so much more poorly than the average Aaron Sorkin television drama.)

In a song near the end of the film (though not close enough to the end), a character speaks of his "pain that will never end.)  I turned to my wife and whispered "Much like this movie," which elicited chuckles from nearby patrons.

Les Miserable could have been great. Wasn't very good. Geezer quotient: 60/100.

Django Unchained awaits for the New Year's movie adventure.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Everyone Wants to Live Forever....Right?

—with this article, our esteemed Professor wishes you all Merry Christmas—

Father Time, naturally, is a Geezer.
One of the distinct mixed pleasures of geezerhood springs from our increasingly confident understanding that we’re not going to live forever.  Increasing age does compromise some of our sheer physical ability to appreciate and affect the world around us: we don’t hear quite so clearly, we don’t see quite so accurately, we cannot pontificate quite so loudly.  But to a large measure these diminished powers are more than compensated for by the fact that we pay closer attention—a byproduct of our increasingly obvious mortality. Ideally the geezer looks more, notices more and savours more.  The baseball great Ted Williams had himself frozen, hoping that help would be on the way in a few centuries.  Most geezers, though, are quite comfortable with the fact that our lives are limited..

But we also still long for those short outbreaks of simulated immortality—those times when the clock seems (finally) to stop. We savor those moments where it appears there are some things without end—even if they are intangibles such as love, the beauty of music, or the taste of turkey on Thanksgiving.  The wish to stop time, to be simultaneously in the past, present and future is present in all cultures, whether it be through ritual worship, cultural observances or carnival.  It is also this wish for time to stop that lies beneath one of the most enjoyable aspects of the holiday season which is upon us: tradition.

Anyone who has been a parent can testify to the distinct comfort and enjoyment that children derive from predictable traditions.  As children grow older, they can grow away from some family traditions—a logical and healthy way of establishing their own identities.  But most of us still welcome those rare moments when we can turn back the clock and re-live past moments, when we can pass on to the next generation the valued practices of the past, and when we can bask in the fleeting delusion that things will always be the same—that some things are permanent.. 

When a Christian of faith participates in the sacrament of Eucharist (Mass), they find themselves simultaneously in the past (at the time of the Last Supper,) and present (in their place of worship). Moreover, because of the ritualized nature of the ceremony they sense that this same meaningful activity will be practiced well into the future.  They exist spiritually in the past, present and future; in other words: time has functionally stopped.

Holiday traditions (which can evolve into rituals) function in a comparable way.  When we sit down for our Thanksgiving dinner—with recipes passed down multiple generations by loved ones no longer alive—and tell stories about past Thanksgivings in a way unconsciously constructed to inspire the younger generation, we pursue that most elusive and fulsome of feelings: with echoes of the past, the festivity of the present, and the inspiration of the future, we are temporarily in all three modes.  Time has stopped; for just one wisp of a moment in a lifetime otherwise characterized by slavish adherence to the clock, we are immortal.

This is all unstated, of course, and many who find themselves nourished by such moments are not consciously aware of the dynamics taking place.  In any event, the clock is an insistent task master, and “real life” resumes whether we like it or not. (Anyone who has woken up on New Year’s Day knows the existential pain of being reminded of one’s mortality after an evening of suspended time—and in many cases, suspended common sense.)

The Italians have a wonderful saying roughly translated as: “you don’t grow old at the table.”  A meal is humorous, joyous but also serious business in Italy.  A meal is firmly structured, the foods based on tradition, and when properly celebrated it is a moment where the awareness of the clock ticking can be set aside or at least overlooked.  A communal meal is nourishing in many ways in addition to mere calories. This effect can be achieved when the meal is sufficiently structured, when the gathering around the table reflects the past and echoes into the future,

The key is understanding how the continuum of habit/tradition/ritual/obsession-compulsion works.  When oppressively presented and slavishly observed, some ossified traditions or rituals can restrict or squelch the spirit.  But when artfully constructed, joyously shared, and festively enacted, there is nothing like a well observed holiday tradition to give us that fleeting, refreshing (and illusory) whiff of infinity.

Happy Holidays.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Movies by Mercurious Dec. 23, 2012

I wanted to like The Hobbit. I really, really was hoping it would be fabulous, even while I worried it might disappoint.

And disappoint it did, but not quite as badly as I feared. I hoped that it would be on the same caliber as The Two Towers—the second installment of the LOTR trilogy that was actually considerably better than the Return of the King, the final installment of the original trilogy, which won Peter Jackson the Oscar for Best Picture. 

I feared, on the other hand, that it might be an abomination on the level of Peter Jackson's The Lovely Bones, one of the most embarrassing, undisciplined, self-indulgent films ever made. There were signs that Jackson was beginning to lose his discipline in the last 45 minutes of Return of the King (holy Lord, has a movie ever taken longer to end?) and his next feature, the King Kong remake; and the The Lovely Bones caused us to fear that he had gone down the Michael Cimino path (who had the astounding The Deer Hunter many years ago, then never produced another good film, ever.) 

The reality is somewhere in between on this one. Visually, the movie is as much fun as LOTR, and in fact from a technical view is even better. There are apparently three different print versions in theaters: a standard digital print, a standard digital 3D version, and a "high-frame-rate" (HFR) 3D version, which was shot at 48 frames per second rather than the more standard 24 frames.

I highly recommend the super-deluxe HFR 3D version, if there is a showing of it near you (there are apparently only 900 or so theaters nationwide equipped to show it; in the Minneapolis area, there were only two). The visual difference is not radical, but still quite noticeable. Much the way digital movie projection was equivalent to the jump from standard definition TV to high-def, HFR is quite a lot like the difference between a VHS video movie and blu-ray.

It's especially startling in 3D, as the kind of artifice you normally spot in 3D movies tends to vanish in HFR, so you really are no longer aware that you're looking at a gimmick of any kind. It also tends to brighten a 3D movie, which is one of the few drawbacks up to now. This technology would have been truly amazing for a film like Scorcese's Hugo. It pretty clearly is something we're going to see a lot more of going forward. 

But back to the film itself. At one point, Guillermo del Toro was slated to direct the Hobbit—a move that would have been very, very interesting. Instead, Peter Jackson returned to direct this, and as a result the techniques are largely the same as in the first trilogy, though many of the special effects are smoother and more convincing. 

But the story, and the characters, are just plain weak. There are no portrayals that really grab you, and the apparent decision to try to extend the single Hobbit book into THREE films means that the pace of the movie languishes quite a lot in the effort to stretch one moderate novel into what likely will be 9 full hours of cinema. We see a lot of the same marvelous sets trotted out again, but there's not a lot that's really ground-breaking, other than the HRF filming technique. 

So go see the movie for the technical innovation, but don't expect an Oscar caliber film. And don't expect to find it on Mercurious' list of best films of 2012. 

Geezer quotient: 70/100

And as an afterthought, there's no real reason to see Barbara Streisand's new movie, The Guilt Trip. Annoying, irritating conversation occasionally broken up by moderately gentle moments. Geezer quotient on this one: 50/100.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Geezer's Christmas Reflection

 I'm not a religious guy.  In fact, I'm really the opposite of religious, if you define it traditionally, anyway. A victim of Lutheran Protestant heritage, I was about 10 years old, I think, when I realized how bogus my religion was. I was barely past ten when eastern traditions began to beckon to me.

The Geezers Emeritus, Christmas 1967
Which makes it a little hard to figure out why Christmas is an exceedingly powerful time of year for me. Perhaps it's because my birthday, a reminder of mortality, is just a week before Christmas; or maybe it's because I'm responding to the distant archetypal roots of Christmas, which includes among other things an assimilation of the ancient Roman Saturnalia festival. That pagan festival began on Dec. 17 and ended on Dec. 25 (oddly enough, this is exactly the period from my own birthday to Christmas).

Other symbols of Christmas can also be traced to other pagan winter solstice celebrations, which in effect are ritual reenactments of the cosmic rebirth stemming from the sun’s retreat from the earth in midwinter to its promised return the following spring and summer. So perhaps it’s all these things conspiring to make Christmas more than tinsel and eggnog for me

Whatever the reason, Christmas has always been a very powerful and joyful time for me, but also one filled with deep nostalgia and even pain. The season always paradoxically makes me think of death as well as rebirth. It is when I find myself most bluntly confronting the tragic and wonderful reality of human mortality.  I'm hard-pressed to explain exactly why this is, as the power of the season seems to extend far beyond the surface Christian aspects. 

And for similarly mysterious reasons, it's also the season that makes me consider the things I'm thankful about. The Thanksgiving holiday itself has little meaning other than as a time to gather together, eat, socialize and watch football. It's Christmas, on the other hand, that always makes me think about the good fortune I've enjoyed in life. 

So while I really don't believe in a personified God in heaven who doles out good things on the world, at this time of year I cannot help but reflect an a huge number of blessings I've received. 

Family.  I wasn't close to my family of origin. I'm still not. Growing up, my family was a dysfunctional solar system, with its center illuminated by my mother, a women of damaged soul and spirit whose radiation burned us in ways that never entirely healed. Yet of the three sons orbiting that sun, I somehow became the one that would eventually be blessed with his own family, consisting of not only a loving and stable and good natured wife, but two great kids who have grown to be fine adults, responsible and compassionate and intelligent and funny.  

When the kids visit these days, it's not uncommon for me to go to bed early while they (along with their own significant others and their mother, my bride) remain up playing games and watching movies until the wee hours. Laying in bed listening to this happy, good-natured family having fun in the next room—and contrasting it to early days in life where hours in bed meant listening to adult hysteria and violent emotion elsewhere in the house—I can't help but blink rapidly and recognize my own good fortune.

Friends. After now living into late middle age and meeting many hundreds of people, I know of very few who can boast a group of friends as close and trusted as the group that have come to form my extended family. The core of it are these very Geezers (Emeritus and Guest)— a group I met in childhood and with whom I established friendships that most people don't develop until college or later, if they manage it at all.

One fellow, who became my friend at 4 years of age, was a guy who once upon a time was both able and willing to debate with me the accuracy of the 500-page Warren commission report on the Kennedy assassination late into the night.  We were 8 years old at the time, camping by a creek near our rural home. Years later, this same friend is willing to hike with me in Alaska, and has helped me sample most of the single-malt whiskeys poured in Scottish distilleries.

With another circle of buddies, I've gathered together nearly every year to play a ritual game of Monopoly at the holidays—a religious event with far more meaning than the Eucharist.  (I'm not kidding).  There's little we don't know about one another, and they are my brothers. 

Along the way I've met a few others, both men and some important woman, who also became members of my family in a way that's equally dramatic. They, too, are folks I've come to trust implicitly, and who also trust me. 

Who can say they deserve friends of this caliber and steadfastness? 

Love. Being able to openly love without fear hasn't come easy to me. Early life experience said that some of the key people who loved you could also hurt you  badly, and unexpectedly. 

In my late teens and early 20s, some of this unpleasant baggage, after being long avoided, finally demanded to be opened and sorted through. For two or three years, I was a genuine mess; it was a time of drugs and hospitals and brutal medical treatment. The fact that this time was very nearly fatal is something I don't often acknowledge, but it is very much true.  I know of plenty of other people who didn't survive such things.

Near the end of this awful period (and maybe it was the very thing that saved me), the first girl I ever dated—and whom I periodically dated through high school and into college—said to me matter-of-factly one day in 1978 that she would like to marry me and spend her life with me; and if it worked out, the following summer might be a good time for us to think about it.   

We were just kids at the time, 23-years old, but even then I was stunned that somebody who knew me so well, and knew what I'd been through over the last few years, could possibly see me as somebody worth loving and investing in. Trust me, I was no prize in that era. To this day, I find that act of trust and confidence an amazing thing, and I'm not completely convinced that I'm deserving of it.  If I'm lucky, before I die I 'll feel deserving of the love that red-haired girl offered me so long ago. 

Over the years since, I've met a few other genuinely important women who became good and loving friends. One was a young therapist, only a few years older than myself, who taught me that some types of craziness need to be embraced and explored if they are to be overcome—the most practical lesson I ever learned. Another was work colleague who eventually became a dear lifetime friend, who will rank right up there with the Geezers when I take inventory just before leaving for the big dirt nap. 

These crucial women, together, have more than compensated for the early deficit of being raised by a troubled mother. It makes me feel cosmically lucky. (Yeah, I know there are hints of Oedipus and Freud in all this. Who cares?  I made peace with it long ago.) 

Kids. I was lucky enough to understand who my kids were when they were still very young, and as a result have found them to be pretty great people, pretty much all the time. 

With both, it happened in the first hours or days after their birth.  With my son, we had just come home from the hospital after his delivery. I was walking with him in my arms in the living room of our new home when an April breeze came through the window, tickling his face. He was momentarily startled by the sensation, but then instantly became delighted and calmed by it. And that's pretty much who my son is. A little shy and startled by the world, but quite peaceful and more accepting of circumstances than almost anyone I know.  Most of the time, I envy his view of the world and wish I were more like him.

With my daughter, it was even sooner. Late the first evening after her birth, I paced with her in my arms in the recovery suite of the downtown Minneapolis hospital where she was delivered. Waking from her sleep, she spied the bright downtown lights. I doubt she could yet focus on them visually, but her facial expression already reflected interest and intellectual fascination.  And this is who she is to this day: interested in almost everything, so much so that she almost can't narrow her interests to a few subjects or hobbies. Through school, there was almost no extracurricular she didn't want to try, and few she didn't become pretty good at. A renaissance personality, then and now. 

How good Scotch whiskey impacts a Geezer
Now grown, my kids are great young adults, and there aren't many people I'd rather be around. I'm genuinely looking forward to being a really old coot, hanging out with middle-aged kids.   

Place in history: one of the Geezer affiliates shares this opinion with me: we are genuinely and mysteriously blessed to have dropped onto this place on the planet at this time. America in the 21st century isn't perfect, but we have the enormous fortune of enjoying good health and an affluent lifestyle in a place largely free of war and strife. Even lower income Americans really enjoy lifestyles that might rightly be envied by 80% of the world's population, and those of us in higher income brackets are obscenely lucky, frankly. A few hundreds years in the past, or a few thousand miles in geographic distance, and life would be far, far different for us. If that's not good fortune, I don't know what is. 

So there is my Christmas thanksgiving. I very much hope your blessings are equal to my own. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Don’t Trust a Geezer Who Doesn’t Believe in Santa Claus.

—the article contributed by The Professor™—

I have a number of identifying characteristics that let me identify parents who “get it” and distinguish them from those who “don’t get it.” People who don’t get it let their children win games, for example; they actually TRY to provide their children with the latest in fashionable clothing; they feel obligated to pick up their children from school if it is raining; they make extensive use of their cell phone “family plan.” And parents who don’t get it are also “honest” about Santa Claus, earnestly discussing the “truth” of the matter with their youngsters at the earliest sign of a question. The thinking is: “if we lie to our child about Santa Claus, how will they ever trust us to tell the truth about other matters?”  It sounds fine, but the ramifications of such thinking are significant indeed. 

Children need Santa Claus; for that matter, we ALL need Santa Claus.

Children need Santa Claus not because he is real, but precisely because he is so extraordinarily, gloriously false—fake, even.  Can there be anything more unbelievable than a fat guy who lives at the North Pole and who builds toys with the help of an army of midget manufacturers?  But it is this sublime subterfuge that makes Santa such an essential element of growing up.

A belief in Santa is often the first firm belief that a child has in something that is clearly destined to disappoint. The realization that “there is no Santa” is one of the first steps on the maturational ladder that eventually leads to a fully realized, adult understanding of the nature of being.  The pattern is this: a child believes fervently that something is true (in this case, Santa); the child learns that what he has been told is not “true” (ie: there is no Santa); the child grows up to realize —despite their disappointment regarding the absence of an actual, factual Santa Claus—that the poetic, “spiritual” nature of Santa is indeed a real, almost palpable virtue, without which life would be much less rich.

Establishing this pattern is of the utmost importance.  Pity the poor individual who grows up believing that that there is no value in the non-factual, and that anything not literal should be rejected out of hand.  Children, with the help of tolerant and enlightened parents, grow up believing in Santa Claus.  About 8 or 9 years of age, usually, they realize that Santa does not exist in a literal sense.  Big disappointment follows instantly.

Essentially, it is a preview of many of the disappointments eventually faced by any thinking person growing up in our world of facts, names and dates. But gradually the disappointment then leads to something even better.  Something happens as our child grows up and matures: he realizes that there really IS a Santa Claus.  People really DO treat each other better at the holidays; people really DO look for ways to reach out to those they otherwise would ignore; people really DO pay more attention to the ideal of “peace on earth, good will toward men.” (Even if it is often just for a few weeks.)

In other words, the fully mature child realizes that the disappointment of losing Santa Claus can be overcome by a belief in a poetic Santa: the embodiment of a season filled with inexplicable beauty and generosity. The mature “child” looks around at the holiday season and knows—beyond doubt—that something special happens that is beyond the realm of literal explanation,  but which is still significant and worthy of celebrating.  In other words: the child has grown up.

This pattern is also seen in other crucial developmental phases as children mature into full adults  

One is sport.  Many children grow up encouraged by various parties to think of athletic success as something guaranteed to bring a future of amazing achievement and possible material wealth.  It usually doesn’t work out that way, and many young people are left with a sense that the “sports” Santa just didn’t bring them the right presents (they didn’t get that scholarship they deserved.) 

The ex-high school athlete who can’t get over this disappointment and grow up is an archetype that anyone can recognize.  The more sensible young athlete who accepts the disappointment and grows up develops the understanding that sport—for all its wonderful intensity—isn’t the most important thing in the universe. 

The transition between thinking sport is all and realizing that it is just one factor in a life well led is a lengthy one for many of us to make (some never do). And for those that do accept the disappointment of failure in sport, some utterly reject all competition as a deceiving fraud, a holy grail that promised more than it delivered.  Not everyone is able to complete the journey and find the symbolic “santa” of sports—the ideal of investing your all in something beyond yourself. People who get it as regards the poetic truth of Santa Claus may also get it when it comes to understanding that sport has a value beyond fame, fortune and glory. It is an organized, artificial mechanism by which your best is drawn from you.

And then there is yet another type of “santa” cycle—your relationship with parents.  Many children grow up thinking of their parents as something nearly unreal and certainly idealistic.  And much like the realization that there is no Santa, the realization that your parents are just people comes as a startling shock to many maturing children.

Recognizing that parents are just ordinary shmucks hits the child with a comparable disappointment, but a much more deep-seated unease. It is one of the fundamental turning points in growing into a fully mature adult.  It is only much later (in many cases, only after we have our own children) that you realize that parents are indeed extraordinary—almost as extraordinary as you originally thought.  The fully mature person gets beyond the startling realization that parents are only people, and comes to see that parents are extraordinary in their distinctive ability to extend a love that will never be matched by anyone else.

And finally, there is the “granddaddy of them all” as far as THE Santa cycle is concerned: God. 

Many of us geezers grew up in a religious environment that included personified deities and literally presented doctrines that were comforting in their clarity, simplicity and definition.  Many of us took this at face value and were then disappointed when confronted with evidence that much of this was just so much silliness, overstatement or—at worst—outright blatant manipulation.  But those who grow to religious maturity realize that there is also an intangible, interpretive side to religious thought that contains poetic truth allowing for a much more fulsome and personal engagement with issues of transcendence. 

The word “God” may always come with an abundance of baggage, and may seem a bit overstated, but as an evocation of an order of things characterizing the universe we want to be a part of, it can be of occasional and unique use.  Most people don’t get angry when they see a fake Santa helping to sell goods in a shopping mall.  They’ve grown up and view such pretence with an appreciation of the intangible, long-term values that are being communicated (despite the cynical setting).  Many people—helped by the Santa cycle—are able to get beyond the cynical, manipulative use of “God” that is so often observed and appreciate how a sophisticated religious vocabulary can help when facing events in life for which there are no other words. 

Having reached a certain point in life, geezers are not fooled by first impressions.  They believe that the most important things are expressed poetically and have symbolic, not literal, truth. They are skeptical of dogma, but realize that firm belief is just a way-station on the road to a more mature, enlightened understanding. 

Geezers believe in Santa.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

In Memory

Along with the rest of America, we are in somber mourning today over the tragedy at a Connecticut elementary school yesterday. The news imagery of stunned five-year-old children being comforted by anguished adults is almost too painful even for distant onlookers to bear.  The Geezers all have children or grandchildren, and remember very well the wonder of children when they are four and five years old, just entering the world of education for the first time.

My wife and daughter work in elementary schools, and for them the week before Christmas will now be a time of little children needing reassurance that they won't be shot as they learn their first lessons. Except now we really can't  tell them it won't happen, only that it's not too likely.

And for us, anyway, the sorrow and shock are too fresh to even be joined by the appropriate outrage. That will have to wait a day or two, after the shock wears off just a little.

Our nation's inability to control the problems of gun proliferation, and our equal incompetence at dealing with the mental illness and/or evil that spawns such events, should be a cause for shame as we start to reflect in a day or two. Yes, such things happen elsewhere in the world, including places like Norway, renowned for peacefulness. But outside zones of war and terrorist turmoil, only in American has it now become routine for an event like this to happen monthly, even weekly.

We've heard it argued that this is the price of freedom—that you'd have to greatly curtail the liberty of everyone to protect ourselves fully from the evil/diseased individuals of the world. But I have to believe there is another, less bloody currency with which to pay the cost of freedom. I'd give up quite a bit if it would ensure no more five-year-old children were executed by psychopaths.

The outrage will come soon, but for now it's discouragement that reigns the day.