Society In Microcosm

After reading the novel and watching the film of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” I realized how much this story tells us about ourselves and our society.

For those who haven’t been exposed to the story, here’s a short summary:

Randle McMurphy gets admitted to the hospital/asylum, pretending to be insane to get out of the prison work farm punishment for rape.

The other main character is a half Indian named Chief Bromden, an inmate who pretends to be deaf and dumb so no one will bother him. He is a mountain of a man, 6 feet, 8 inches tall.

McMurphy is a larger than life character who stirs up the inmates so as to challenge the head nurse Ratched’s authority. He does this by upsetting the routine that the nurse enforces. Nurse Ratched takes away the men’s individuality and will by her strict rules. She punishes them by electro shock treatment and lobotomy.

In the end, McMurphy gets so aggravated with Ratched’s controlling tactics, that he starts choking her. For this he is sent for a lobotomy and returns as a vegtable. The Chief, who McMurphy has instilled with self-confidence, smothers him to death, knowing he wouldn’t want to be a prisoner in his body. Then the Chief escapes out into the world.

***

The conflict between the authoritarian nurse and the free spirit McMurphy, investigates the theme of individuality and rebellion against conformity.

McMurphy symbolizes individuality, free expression and self-determination. These attributes are everything an oppressive society wants to stifle. McMurphy wants to bring individuality and self-worth to the other inmates. In the case of Chiet Bromden and a few others, he succeeds.

Throughout the story, you wonder if McMurphy is really insane or is he completely sane and just has a problem with authority. The hospital has complete control through nurse Ratched just like society has social control over the people.

What is the difference between sanity and insanity?

Sanity is about being aware of yourself, your surroundings and circumstances and coping with reality.

Insanity is the distorting of reality and being out of touch with reality.

There is a gray area in between these extremes, it’s called, “losing the plot.” This means losing one’s ability to cope and understand what’s happening.

The risk-taking, self-reliant individual was once celebrated, not now, society keeps individualism down. The government and society (the hospital in the film) wants to exercise willpower on our behalf and make choices for us. Horrors!

The individual according to Sartre and Nietzsche, has to create their own values and meaning in life, rather than rely on external socially imposed codes.

But, in the end, we have to obey the rules of society to maintain some order.

So, society restricts individual actions and choices because it believes the individual will make the wrong choice, for themselves, for others, or both!

So, the hospital/asylum is society in microcosm. The inmates represent the problems of coping with the pressures that society puts on them to conform to the “norm.”

Some inmates are definitely not crazy, they are just having difficulty coping with society’s pressures!

There is a lot of existentialism in the story. This is the philosophy that says individual existence, freedom of choice is mandatory. Humans should define their own meaning in life and make rational decisions despite living in an absurd world.

McMurphy shows the inmates that living an authentic life is more important than being accepted by society. He teaches them that their lives are in their control, not society’s.

Nurse Ratched symbolizes the methodical, oppressive, and indifferent nature of modern society.

McMurphy represents individualism.

The inmates represent the majority of people that conform to society and it’s “normal” rules.

McMurphy tries to teach the men to live an authentic life, which is wearing no masks and being true to yourself. You make choices and you take responsibility for them. He tells them to have courage and challenge society(nurse Ratched). He makes the men feel unique and important.

Chief Bromden pretended to be deaf and dumb because society acted that way toward him.

Authentic living is the essence of life and if you are forced to conform entirely, than authentic living is impossible and life isn’t worth living.

So, to sum up existentialism: Be an individual and think for yourself. Society wants to guide you through life, the “must” follow path, but your life will only be meaningful if you strive to create your own meaning in life.

I will conclude this article by a comparison of the book to the movie.

It’s all down to character and mood development. Here the book and the movie differ.

The book gives you more feeling and moods than the film because of deeper character development in the novel.

When a movie is made from a book, the makers have to please the audience’s need for fast pace. What gets lost can sometimes be the real deep meaning behind the story.

So, as far as “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” is concerned, the film is good but the book is excellent!

 

Unstable Personality–An Internal Dialogue

“I think I have an unstable, inconsistent personality.”

“What do you mean? How unstable and inconsistent?

“Well, many times I have doubts about whether or not I’ve made the right decision or done the right thing. Also, at times I’m sociable and other times I’m hard work or I like to keep to myself. I have a weak ego. I feel different from everybody and sort of inferior”

“Why do you feel that way?”

“Because I feel off balance and awkward in my relationships with other people.”

“What do you think causes this?”

“I don’t know. All I do know is that I feel like a NON-PERSON!”

“Wow! That’s quite a powerful statement.”

“Yes, it is. I feel like I’m invisible, non-existent.”

“Lets see just what makes a PERSON. What are the ingredients?

Brain, mind, emotions, perceptions, dreams, fears and personality.

Now, what is the purpose, the function of a PERSON?

It’s to perpetuate the “HOW” of life.”

“What’s that?”

“It’s the behavior and mental processes of being alive, staying alive and perpetuating life.”

“So, we’ve got the ingredients and function of a PERSON, now what?”

“Now, we need a PARTS list. Body, mind personality, social skills, the ability to learn lessons from the environment, the ability to grow and develop and finally the ability to cope with change and stress.”

“Holy Cow! This is like assembling a flat-pack from Ikea!”

“Well, now you can see you ARE a person, you have the ingredients and the parts.

You should now feel you are a unique being capable of meeting people on an equal footing”

“Now, how can we strengthen a weak ego? Usually ego is equated with one’s sense of self-importance.”

“I don’t feel very important.”

“The trouble with ego built on self-importance is if you lose that importance you collapse like a house of cards.”

“What then?”

“You need self-worth, which is built day by day. You have goals and when you achieve them, you feel good about yourself. But even if your goals fall through, you still have a good feeling about yourself.”

“Hold on, I get it! I must choose to like myself no matter what. Self-worth is the answer.”

“Right on! Now lets have a little fun. Ever heard of Rorschach Ink Blot tests?”

“Vaguely.”

“I’m going to drop a large blob of ink on the middle of this piece of paper and then fold it in half. When you look at the resultant pattern tell me your immediate thoughts, feelings and desires. This will help you understand your personality.

I will now unfold the paper. What do you see?”

“It looks like two clowns facing each other. It’s scary! What does it mean?”

“Well, you said you had trouble socializing, so this tells you that you have trouble relating to people.”

“What! But you told me that problem was solved!”

“Internal Dialogue Terminated!!!”

No Country For Old People!

While re-watching the film, No Country for Old Men, in which the old sheriff thinks that all his rules of life have disappeared and he no longer has the energy or inclination to put up with the wild and horrific times, the idea came to me that something similar occurs for old people generally these days.

The old people of today are led down the path of decrepitude with poor care provisions, with less recognition by society, with the feeling of being invisible, and the general feeling of being abandoned and isolated in this age of high tech.

The old feel lost and confused in today’s fast pace of life, which is geared to the young. Society seems to devote less and less time to the care of the old. All this leads up to feeling rejected by society.

So, the Older Generation becomes The Lost Generation!

Many elderly feel extreme loneliness as a result of feeling alien to the outside world. It’s like your SELF has no value and is less appreciated. Many of the old feel unable to adapt to new circumstances especially when they are vulnerable to illness and disease. They feel lost by the way aging is treated, it has come to mean loss of value and importance.

The last act of life takes everything we can muster to keep moving forward. We hope our will is strong so the circumstances of old age cannot destroy us.

The old have to say, “YES” to life even though we are scared of the unknown.

We are STILL here and we can still do some things that are noteworthy.

So, how do we fight being invisible?

You can circumvent invisibility by an outgoing personality. I’m not talking about being pushy, but you can make yourself heard. I do this by my writing, which is my hobby in retirement. I keep abreast of the news and offer my opinions.

Carry on with moving one foot in front of the other, mentally and physically, and you won’t feel this is NO COUNTRY FOR OLD PEOPLE!

Human Robots?

The recent development of advanced computers capable of performing tasks at the same level as their human makers has opened up a whole raft of questions and the making of many sci-fi films.

After having watched four artificial intelligence films, A.I., Bicentennial Man, Transcendence and 2001: A Space Odyssey, questions popped up in my mind:

Is it possible for something made of silicon, wire and metal to have a mind and be like a human? If it is possible should we fear this process?

In the film A.I., a robot named David, an adopted child to a human family, has the capacity to “love” and he displays analytic ability to figure out how to get his “mother’s” love.

In Bicentennial Man, Andrew, the slave robot, wants the freedom and equality of a human.

So, what distinguishes a robot from a human at this point in time?

Humans have emotions, feelings and consciousness.

Robots don’t.

Humans are organic, flesh and bone, robots are made of metal, chips and wire.

Humans think, robots are programed.

In the future will we let the A. I. genie out of the bottle? Maybe there was a time when nuclear weapons could have been avoided, but we let the genie out of the bottle and now they are here to stay. Now, we are at the same position with A.I. What are the consequences of the continued development of intelligent robots?

Humans are conscious. Can a robot be conscious?

Consciousness means awareness of what we are sensing and what we are doing. This is internal monitoring. Robots don’t have this consciousness.

Are human machines possible?

Humans are aware of their surroundings, senses and what they are doing, plus they are intelligent.

An intelligent but unconscious being is a “zombie”. If we made lots of intelligent machines we would be facing a world full of zombies!

A robot has no internal mental world, no consciousness. We probably will be able to build “thinking” computers, but they would still be a zombie, an unconscious thinker!

The other day I watched a film called, “Transcendence”, where a scientist uploads his mind, his consciousness, to a computer. This is an interesting concept, capturing a person’s mind on the software of a computer. But it’s scary in that you would be reduced to a long list of binary numbers! Not quite human is it?

Apparently, there’s no limit to how smart a computer can become. They could become smarter than humans and then how do we control these machines?

Can we duplicate the human brain, or consciousness? The brain isn’t just electrical. It has a deep structure, billions of neurons and trillions of connections (synapses). As far as consciousness goes, we don’t even have a theory of consciousness, so it is still a mystery.

I always thought the film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, was a marvelous sci-fi movie. But will it be science fact in the future? It certainly was very philosophical. The story follows Nietzsche’s magnum opus “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”. The story goes from apes to humans to the “overman”, a futuristic being who looks at humanity as humanity now looks at the apes. The film tells the same story beginning with ape-men, then going through humanity, and finishing up with the “Star Child”, a planet-sized super intelligent baby.

In the film there is a computer called “Hal”, a powerful form of artificial intelligence. Hal can sense things and he runs the space ship. He thinks he is superior to humans. Hal is evil!

Should we be frightened of these super intelligent robots? The astronauts were. Hal wanted to get rid of the crew and he does except for astronaut Bowman.

Nietzsche said, “God is dead.” So we have to find another meaning to life. The whole film leads us to the “Star Child”, which was designed and directed by a race of aliens. These aliens have designed humans to become intelligent through technology. They direct Bowman, the surviving astronaut, to be transformed into the “Star Child”, the new supreme intelligence.

In the end, the death of God is achieved through science.

Whatever happens in the future, and it could be very scary, these films are incredibly interesting and enlightening.

But for the moment lets enjoy the present.

As the adage says:

“Fear of the future is a waste of the present.”

Being Alone

He lived alone. I was his self-appointed part-time carer, sounding board and friend. But he needed none of these, as he often said. He was the most self-reliant man I ever knew, who loved his solitude for his thinking time. His mind was his companion and he was happy.

I lived in the same apartment building. I used to visit him ever so often, to give him some company and to do things for him. That was when he turned 78 years old and his legs were giving out on him. He hobbled around the apartment with a stick. At this time he had been living alone for 30 years.

He told me he was an only child, he used to play by himself and he got used to his own company and he enjoyed it. He liked being alone with his own thoughts.

He lost his parents early, his father when he was 15, his mother when he was 25. Then he was an orphan. His wife died when he was 48 years old. That’s when his real solitude started.

We had many good conversations, he had solid opinions on everything. He watched a lot of news on the TV and he read all the newspapers. His apartment was lined with bookshelves filled with non-fiction and fiction.

“You know all I hear and read is the media shouting at me. They try to inform you but all they do is leave you on the fence, undecided and confused.”

“What do you do to rectify that?” I said.

“Well, I don’t accept everything I hear and read, so I’m left with my own thinking. I often wonder, if I can trust my thinking. My intellect is limited but with a lot of things I use common sense and logic acquired over the years. But lately, the world seems to have gone crazy!”

“I know there is a lot of injustice and unfairness in the world.”

“That’s right, I’ve been disappointed so much through the years. I almost expect disappointment as a way of life. I cannot conceive of a world run the way it should be run.”

“Maybe you’re expecting too much from the world,” I countered.

“I get disgusted when the people I meet all think in terms of the accumulation of goods and power. If I have more than you, I am better than you. Think of the drunken bum, who never worked a day in his life. Then he wins the lottery. Now, he is an eccentric millionaire. No longer a drunken bum. He now, has power and recognition. Has he changed? Not really, but he’s accepted as a superior being now.”

“Well, I read a columnist in the paper the other day and he said…”

The old man interrupted me.

“See, this is another thing that aggravates me. My father lived through the first World War, Prohibition and the Depression. He had his ideas about life. What came out of his mouth, was my father speaking out. When I listen to people today, so much of what they say is from other mouths. I tell them, I’m looking for you in your conversation, but I can’t find you!”

I got up to leave.

“Well, I’ll see you in a couple of days, old fella, you’re a real thinker,” I said, patting him on the shoulder.

“Yes, okay, I’ve got some thinking to do and I think best when I’m alone. But thanks for dropping in and giving me more inspiration to think.”

I left him smiling.

A couple of days later, I popped in to see the old fella.

“How are you today?”

“Okay I guess, but I spent an hour looking for my glasses. Finally found them, memory isn’t what it used to be. The joys of getting old.”

He seemed to be losing his short-term memory lately.

“Don’t you get restless and bored being alone most of the time?”

“Not me, I’ve got my thoughts to keep me busy.”

I shook my head.

“Don’t you get lonely?”

“Not me, son, I like my own company and my thinking time. I find when I have “me time”, I feel good.”

“But don’t you get tired of thinking about concepts and conundrums?”

“Not in the least, periods of solitude teach me to live with me, the one person I’ll never be apart from.”

“It seems to me too much solitude would be difficult and painful.”

“No, I find I need solitude to think. Being alone forces me to come to terms with every corner of my mind.”

***

The weeks went into months with the old fella telling me how happy he was with his own thoughts, feeding and exercising his brain with whatever problem he came across.

Then I left town for two years to work at another branch of my company. I often thought about the old man with his thoughts on solitude.

When I returned, I dropped in on him. I found him in a chair staring at the TV. There was a far away look in his eyes. Lots of books were strewn across the floor.

“My brain is black,” he mumbled.

“What’s that mean?”

The old man’s hands were shaking.

“It means my brain is dying and I am dying! My thoughts are all jumbled up, I can’t think clearly. I’ve lost my companion.”

I left his apartment feeling very sad and I was determined to get him some professional help.

The next day I visited him again. I knocked on the door, it opened a crack by itself. I walked in and found the old man slumped in his chair. There was a smile on his face. On the table next to him was an empty glass, two empty bottles of pills and a half empty bottle of whiskey.

Our Inner Voice, Friend Or Foe? It’s Your Choice!

That inner voice is talking to us all the time. It’s our SELF, talking to us. Most of this inner talk is NEGATIVE, preventing us from enjoying life and creating our goals.

This negative self-talk comes from bad programming that we took to heart from childhood right through to adulthood. Word by word, year by year, our life scripts were formed. Self-images were etched into our brains.

We came to believe what we were being told by others, parents, teachers, friends, and what we were telling ourselves.

Repeatedly, the same words were told to us, what we could do, what we should do, and what we could not do. This wrong programming became a WALL which stood between us and our future. This programming became our FOE without us realizing it.

The negative conditioning we received for years has to be erased or replaced with different programming or it will stay with us for the rest of our lives.

So, what do we need to replace the bad conditioning? We need two things, positive self-talk and the desire to make good life choices.

We need positive SELF-TALK. A word for word set of directions, to repeat to our subconscious. This will be your new conditioning.

I will give you some examples of positive SELF-TALK which will be your FRIEND.

When you read these examples, SAVOUR the feeling you get.

Self-Talk:

“I am control of my mind.”

“I am living my life in a way which creates my strengths, my happiness, and my positive thoughts.”

“I am positive and confident. I like who I am and I’m glad to be me.”

“I begin each day with a plan to get the most from my time and effort. I follow my plan and I reach my goals.”

I’m sure you can come up with many more uplifting statements for yourself. Remember, when you state it, you create it! We make choices everyday and those choices create our success or failure in life, our happiness or misery.

Your good choices create powerful self-directed programs. Good choices can override past negative conditioning.

Each time you make a choice, you define what you want, what you hope for, what you believe about yourself, and what you believe about others around you.

Life Choice statements:

“I choose to give myself the time to do the things I want to do and to give myself the space to create.”

“I choose NOT to accept bad vibes from others and NOT to care how they feel about my response to their criticisms.”

There are two BIG choices to make:

Choices of Attitude and Choices of Action.

These two kinds of choices work together.

Choices of attitude have to do with how you feel about something.

How you look at things.

Lets create a scenario and ask some questions:

A colleague at work is always criticizing the way you go about doing your job.

How do you feel about this? Angry, you say.

How do I choose to feel about this? I shouldn’t let him get under my skin.

How do I feel now? I feel indifferent and I will ignore him.

So, you changed from anger to ignoring. You’ve changed your attitude.

Choices of action tell us what we will do about our change of attitude. In the above example you could go to the boss about your annoying colleague.

Now, how about the big choices that set our direction in life.

Love is a choice. You say: “ I choose to love and to be loved.”

This is the desire to make a relationship work. But of course, this is a two way street. It depends on the other person too, do they have the same desire?

To make love work, you have to admire and respect who the other person is.

Success is a choice. Start believing in what you can do, and stop believing in what you can’t do. The present doesn’t wait for the future!

Stand in front of your mirror and repeat: “I am successful. I deserve to be successful. I choose to be successful.” This would start your believing it in your subconscious and then it would work into your conscious.

Happiness is a choice. Some people live with unhappiness, the color has disappeared from their life. They don’t have the energy, or enthusiasm for living each day.

But, they can change, because happiness is an attitude and your attitudes are always up to you!

So, get in front of that mirror again and say: “I choose to be happy today.” Keep

repeating that at different times during the day. You will change your attitude to happiness.

A new day, a new life, and new things to learn!

We control everything. We decide what we do, where we go, how we react, and especially, what we focus on.

It’s your life. Do what you want to do!

Here’s a couple of departing thoughts on Choice:

When you need to make a choice and don’t make it, that in itself is a choice.

When life throws a knife at you, there are two ways of catching it, by the blade or by the handle.

Your Life, Short Or Long?

In the title of this article, I am talking about the FEELING of shortness or length when one thinks about his or her life. Between birth and death there is a span of life and it rushes by swiftly. Life is short, is the retort.

But, did you ever think why it feels so short? Maybe, it’s because we WASTE so much of it. You can make your life feel longer if you spend your time achieving constructive goals instead of frittering it away in hedonistic activities.

If we waste life, then the constraint of death makes us wonder where life has gone. Many people pursue no fixed goals, they are tossed about on a stormy sea and then death takes them when they least expect it.

So, most people live only a SMALL part of their life and all the rest is merely passing time. Sad, isn’t it?

So the feeling of a long life is all in how you USE it, life, that is.

Many live life as if they are going to live forever. Their mortality never occurs to them. They squander life as if they had a never ending supply.

Some people are weary of the present and troubled by a longing for the future. Before they know what has happened, their hair is white and wrinkles appear. They have NOT lived long, they have just existed for a long time.

People are always expecting something or waiting for something. This life of expectancy denies them TODAY by promising TOMORROW!

The present is extremely valuable and short, most people are unaware of this.

The present is always moving, flowing on in a rush.

So, if you are preoccupied with frivolous distractions, you will fail to grasp the present. But if you use it in productive endeavors, it will seem longer. So don’t neglect the present or fear the future.

How can we come to grips with using our life in an authentic manner? A manner in which you are free and responsible for making your own choices.

Yesterday is a memory and tomorrow never comes. TODAY is what we have to deal with. So, how is that done?

Sartre, my favorite philosopher, said: “Existence precedes essence”, which means that each person exists first, without meaning or purpose, but then strives, for the rest of their life, to give themselves meaning and purpose. You are continually inventing yourself, making choices and living authentically, hopefully.

Here’s a conflicting thought: For life to feel longer, you must fact up to your inevitable death. Because when you face up to the inescapable truths of the human condition, you make sure you live fully in your present, while you can.

And when you live fully in your TODAY, your life feels like it is long.

Abe Lincoln once said: “In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the LIFE in your years.”

As you now have probably figured out, I am an EXISTENTIALIST. I try to seize the day. CARPE DIEM.

I try to be true to myself and compassionate to others. I have my opinions but the OTHER, an existential term for “person”, they look at me and see me and they have opinions about me, which could or could not stroke my ego. I respect that.

I will end with: Life is like a bank. You can’t take OUT what you haven’t put IN!

Personhood?

Family Guy is an animated comedy about a dysfunctional family, the Griffins, and it spoofs current events and social taboo subjects, much like the Simpsons.

While watching several episodes, to get a few laughs, I was intrigued by the pet dog, Brian. Now Brian fancies himself a person because he has human characteristics. He walks on his hind legs and he talks. He is articulate, witty and urbane and he strives for person status.

Watching Brian’s antics, I started thinking about Personhood. It’s defined as the state of being an individual or having human characteristics and feelings.

Can Brian, the dog, be a person?

Reasoning tells us in order to be a person, one must be human. So, Brian lacks this necessary condition of personhood: humanity.

Another condition is you must think rationally. Brian is rational and he is a thinking being able to reason. Even Kant would agree that being a person does NOT include membership in a particular species, but must only be in possession of reason. So, you could call Brian a person that demands respect!

Now, our Brian is a cartoon, but it does lead us to the question of how to distinguish persons from pets.

Persons are the entity that has the moral right to make its own life choices, and to live its life without interference from others (self-determination). We don’t give animals the same kind of autonomy that we accord persons. We sell dogs and cats. Pets are property.

To be a person you need a modicum of intellect, and self-awareness and consciousness. I do have intelligence and I am self-aware.

Hold on! What does it mean to be self-aware?

It means you are aware of your existence and actions. You are conscious of your own self and ego.

You also need consciousness to be a person.

Hey! What’s that all about?

Well, to have consciousness requires “subjective experiences.” Which means you must possess an inner, mental life. You can put yourself in other situations through your imagination.

So, we are different from animals in that we try to understand where we came from. We look into our past and try to predict our future, and what other species thinks about their death?

So, we are a unique species.

Hooray! I am a unique person.

I conclude with:

No two people are alike—and both of them are glad of it!

The Oldie Point Of View

The young and middle-aged take note:

By “oldie”, I mean people 70 years of age and beyond. Usually this is the age range when we are considered “old” by others and ourselves.

BEING AN OLDIE IS A TIME OF LOSSES. But there is some light in the present, after all we are still alive!

The first loss is the loss of youth and middle-age. What happened? It came so fast. Well, life has happened.

Along with youth, respect is lost. People don’t respect or notice oldies. So, what do we do? We create euphemisms, such as, “older”, “elderly”, or “senior citizen”.

To younger people, we oldies are invisible! Maybe we should jump up and down and talk louder.

Loss of interest in life is another problem. But what bothers me greatly is remembering my life as it was thirty or forty years ago and then coming back to the NOW.

Old age forgetfulness and grumpiness are forgiven by others, but the oldie doesn’t forgive what has happened to him. We have to die, but before that, must we also become OLD?

Loss of health is another shock for the oldie. Stairs are harder to climb, streets are more dangerous to cross, locomotion is slowed, it seems everyone is walking faster than you! Then there are the ever present aches and pains and failing joints. Your once firm strong body now rebels with weakened legs and the fear of slipping or tripping and getting hurt in a fall.

Also, you will be very lucky to avoid any illnesses. So, what do you do? You redefine health to the point of being thankful for the absence of life threatening illness. The average oldie will spend about five years of their retirement dogged by poor health. So, try to get the most out of life while you still are semi-healthy and independent.

Another shock loss is the loss of our looks. There is almost a total change in how we look. We get wrinkles, brown spots on our temples and hands, bags of flesh beneath our eyes and of course loss of hair or white hair. Watch out for mirrors, you won’t recognize the person in the reflection. I only look in a mirror when I shave!

Loss of loved ones and friends is almost unendurable. And , of course, these losses magnify our own mortality.

And finally we come to the loss of TIME. Old age is the last stage of life and time is RUNNING OUT! The years are now going by so fast that it is hardly worth counting them. We have more PAST than FUTURE! People tell you to get resigned to your losses and make the best of things, I reply, being old is like life is over, BUT we are still living! After all is said and done, resigning yourself to old age losses is far preferable to death.

So, what do we do? We cherish what remains of life. I enjoy my hobby of writing and the time my spouse and I spend together.

We must appreciate life and to do that we have to value it. In the case of the oldie, the idea is to treasure what one has, namely, the remaining life we have, so temporarily.

So, how can we appreciate life and be aware of its brevity?

Well, the things I do are visit cemeteries, look at old photos and pics, and think about our blindness and ignorance to let the events of our lives pass without much notice.

When I visit cemeteries it reminds me that the meter of life is running and the dates on the stones are confirmation of how long, or short, human existence can be.

I often look at old photos and pictures to give me ideas for stories, since I am a writer in my retirement. Photos capture time, they make time STOP, something we can’t do. These old images record moments of life before they vanish into the past.

When I look at old photos of myself, I realize I am no longer that person and that the person I am now will not be who I am in the future. These photos give me an appreciation of who I am now and what I now have. When I look at old photos of my family it gives me feelings of awe, sadness and incredulity, sometimes tears come to my eyes.

The last item is our blindness and ignorance to take the moments of life for granted. As we go through life we don’t notice much, we’re shut up in our little boxes. We don’t realize life while we are living it. The ordinary events of life are priceless and it’s a tragic waste to not recognize this at the time. But that’s human nature, not to notice life’s moments and they pass so quickly. We are too busy to notice.

Well, I wrote this articles for myself, I am 78 years old and I hope I will appreciate the time I have left. Right now, I’m going to pour myself a large glass of wine to help me accept the things I can’t change.

Nationalism vs Liberalism

What do these terms mean? Is “nationalism” putting your country first and giving the people a sense of self-identity, bonding and security? Is “liberalism” the view of equality for all?

For almost three decades a global, liberal ruling class has tried to put down the spirit of nationhood—blind to the people’s pride in their country. The liberal elite had a dream of everyone being “citizens of the world”, a grand utopian vision of the people mingling in an ever-shifting ethnic and racial global community!

You wouldn’t be British; you would be European!

You wouldn’t be American; you would be Asian-American, Hispanic-American, African-American, etc.!

But as the Brexit referendum and the American presidential election have made clear: many people don’t like the liberal elite’s dream!

To many people their national identities are important to them. Their flag is a symbol of pride, belonging, security and bonding.

Most people don’t want to live in communities that are endlessly changing. They want stability and a sense of belonging—exactly the things the people associate with their national identity.

Many liberals call this “racist” and they sneer at the people they are supposed to be leading. “How dare these common people refuse to embrace our ideas?”

The new US president’s nationalistic appeal found fertile ground because the liberal project has many flaws.

The liberals thought they were bringing in a new golden age with globalization, mass immigration and open borders. BUT, in fact, they revived the thing they wanted to erase—nationalism!

So, what’s the answer?

In my mind, neither extreme nationalism or extreme liberalism is the answer. Compromise is the way.

The world desperately needs patriotic, pragmatic leaders. Leaders who are open to co-operation and understand people and their national communities, open to progress but also respectful of tradition. They must be tolerant of differences but not obsessed with extreme diversity.

It probably will be a long time before we see leaders like the above. But in the meantime maybe we should give the leaders we have a chance to see what they can do.