Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Goodbye to All That

For some time I have been thinking about starting another blog, one that will be about sickness, old age, and death. I have the qualifications, plenty of material in my life, and I see the need, but is there an audience?

In America, we don't believe in the inevitability of the big three. I had to learn that from Buddhism, which begins with the first premise, "Life is hard." Dukkha is the word, often translated to mean "suffering" or "unsatisfactory." Ahh. That was a help to me. It's not that there's something wrong with me; life is like this.

Sickness is very unpopular in America. We see posters of very old men and women with wierdly muscular bodies and fierce expressions, posing in bathing suits: Old age is not for sissies! they proclaim. We spend, spend on things that promise to restore a semblance of youth, from face creams worth more per ounce than gold, to Viagra. We buy books that tell us we can think ourselves young. Outwit the laws of the universe. We admire people who begin a second career at 65 and go on to beat the world, and warehouse those whom dementia takes back to childhood.

One reason I spend the extra money to belong to the McConnell fitness center is that it is also a rehab facility, associated with a hospital system. The majority of people there are "older" and have experienced big hits, stroke, heart attack, pulmonary disease. They are plump and gray and mostly cautious. Few would dream of trying to run marathons.

I have no idea how many of them are online. There is a prejudice or fear among even some people younger than me, the Boomers, against all this technology that got going while our attention was somewhere else. And who, under sixty, wants to read about the realities of old age? I found when I got on Facebook (briefly), that it has a special section for the elderly, defined as those over age forty.

You do write to be read, the same way you speak to be heard. So I may do it or not.

If I do a blog like that, I might call it, "Goodbye to All That." It is a very heavily used phrase, so resonant, but I haven't found another blog by that name. Today I read for the first time Joan Didion's classic essay of that title. It is perfect, an elegant, finished piece of art, the way essays sometimes were when they were written on typewriters, or by hand, and published on real paper, before the days of . . . tossing off a blog. That sort of personal essay is now part of literary history. I was amazed to find that "the number one public library in the country," here in Columbus, does not own a copy of Slouching to Bethlehem, the book in which it is collected. I'll have to buy it online.

And just now the tiny iridescent green hummingbird paused midair in front of my window, then passed on, reminding me how surprising and sudden happiness, too, can be.

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