Thursday, February 19, 2015

Intensely Alive

I sort of wish that I could just copy and paste the whole article here, but that feels a bit like cheating. Still, I'm going to post this chunk (rather nearly half, I say), because it is so eloquent and so plainly hits on the way I wish I could feel every day. It's only a shame that it takes facing down death to apparently make people live the way we should be living regardless.

From the article:
"And yet, one line from Hume’s essay strikes me as especially true: “It is difficult,” he wrote, “to be more detached from life than I am at present.”

Over the last few days, I have been able to see my life as from a great altitude, as a sort of landscape, and with a deepening sense of the connection of all its parts. This does not mean I am finished with life.

On the contrary, I feel intensely alive, and I want and hope in the time that remains to deepen my friendships, to say farewell to those I love, to write more, to travel if I have the strength, to achieve new levels of understanding and insight.This will involve audacity, clarity and plain speaking; trying to straighten my accounts with the world. But there will be time, too, for some fun (and even some silliness, as well).
I feel a sudden clear focus and perspective. There is no time for anything inessential. I must focus on myself, my work and my friends. I shall no longer look at “NewsHour” every night. I shall no longer pay any attention to politics or arguments about global warming.
This is not indifference but detachment — I still care deeply about the Middle East, about global warming, about growing inequality, but these are no longer my business; they belong to the future. I rejoice when I meet gifted young people — even the one who biopsied and diagnosed my metastases. I feel the future is in good hands.

I have been increasingly conscious, for the last 10 years or so, of deaths among my contemporaries. My generation is on the way out, and each death I have felt as an abruption, a tearing away of part of myself. There will be no one like us when we are gone, but then there is no one like anyone else, ever. When people die, they cannot be replaced. They leave holes that cannot be filled, for it is the fate — the genetic and neural fate — of every human being to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death.
I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.
Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure."
Read the rest here:
Oliver Sack's on Learning He Has Terminal Cancer

As I approach 40, I find myself thinking and talking about death a lot. And, I've also noticed that it makes people uncomfortable when I do. Those who are older than me, especially. My parents and friends who are already in their 40's and 50's. I get a lot of comments to the effect of "you can't be old, since I'm not old." Which -while I understand what they are getting at- I think is sort of dismissive or disingenuous. Like they are willfully misunderstanding my thoughts. I'm not implying that I'm knocking at deaths door. But, instead, I'm using this particular signpost in my life to evaluate where I'm at and give more focus to where I want to go.

I guess, personally, I don't see the disadvantage of acknowledging that I am about halfway through my life; if that acknowledgment helps me live the second half even better.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

What is Power?

When I created this blog a couple of years ago, one of the ideas that underpinned it was that it would be a place to post about and look at things that fell outside the day-to-day chronicling of life that took place in my other blog, Strange and Benevolent. But, after a few entries in which I pursued the goal of becoming more capable in the kitchen (something I am, admittedly, still working on), this blog sort of fell out of my mind and went fallow.

Recently, though, as I approach my 40th Birthday, I've found myself more and more interested in sort of big concepts: Politics, Religion, Philosophy. Not in the sort of argumentative sort of discourse that dominates today's news cycles, but instead in the sort of high-minded muses that you find in forums like TED, Pete Holmes' "You Made It Weird" podcast and over late night glasses of wine with friends. So, as sort of a way to record those ideas as they catch my attention and -possibly- as a way to help connect the dots between disparate ideas, I think I will begin posting and linking things here. I'm not sure if there will be any immediate focus, but -instead- I'll just wait and see if this thing sort of forms itself.

So, to start, here is Eric Liu's lesson on "How To Understand Power." It's a pretty succinct and interesting look at what power is, how it's wielded and how you can make it work for you.