Saturday, November 26, 2011

"Attractive Nuisance"

My friend the cynic came into town the other day. He proceeded to rant:

"Do you see that woman the other day on TV, the one who charged a guy with sexual harassment? I think she was represented by Gloria Allred? The complainant was wearing a blouse that showed cleavage down to her naval? Sexual harassment?! The first thing I would do if I was the guy's defense lawyer is ask if she was wearing that blouse when he harassed her? If so, she should be charged with "attractive nuisance" and he should sue her. What do you mean 'what do I mean' by attractive nuisance? It's a theory that I remember from business law. Suppose you're digging a hole in your garden to build a little pool. And you leave it open overnight without any fence around or boards covering it. And a little boy walks by your yard, sees the open hole and comes on your property and plays in the open, dug-out hole...and injures himself. Well, you, the owner of the property is liable...even though the boy trespassed on your property. The law considers an open, unprotected hole on some one's property an attractive nuisance to children. That's the argument I would use in defense of men who are charged with harassing women with plunging necklines: uncovered cleavage are attractive nuisances. They are open holes. They (the women) are liable. It is an irresistible attraction. Especially to men, whose sexual natures, as we all know, are akin to a little boy's needs and desires to play and roll in the dirt. I rest my case."

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Plea for Understanding.

From the old to the young:

Why do we oldsters take forever at the counter. picking up our change?

Because we have lost a great deal of sensitivity in our finger tips, and we can't quite feel the edge of the coin; much less do we have the ability to fight through the arthritis to engender finger suppleness and knuckle dexterity to flip the coin into our pockets once we pick the coin up.

Why do we always seem to have food stains on our blouses and shirts, like pigs?

Because we can't see as well as we used to; we can't see the dropped food or drying residue on the favorite shirts we wear day in and day out; also neatness primarily being a tactic to impress work colleagues, our Moms or the opposite sex, we're not working so much anymore, Mom is in the grave, and sex is confined to self-infliction...with no one looking, including ourselves. 

Why do we look so dumb-founded when you talk to us?

Its just that we can't hear you as well anymore. Also, even if we do hear clearly, our brain-synapses don't work as quickly as before, translating the sound into clear cognition. And maybe, to be honest, it is a little bit because of stupidity. Not ours; yours: maybe we can't believe that you would say something so dumb and uninformed?

Why do we always seem so conservative?

In short, because we have more to conserve. It is old saying: "if you're young and not liberal, you have no heart; if your old and not conservative, you have no brain." Let me put it this way: when you've seen so many rainy days, you tend to save more assiduously for them.

Why do we always seem to be picking our teeth and sucking food from between our teeth?

Because our gums have receded, leaving more space between our teeth to have food sticking in there after a meal. That's why the Indians call old people "long in the tooth." Because they have shorter gums and so their teeth seem longer. Facts of life. See how the seemingly undesirable habits of old age are merely logical responses to the practical facts of aging life.

Why do we always wear sweaters, or for that matter, silly sailing hats or peak caps, or golf caps, even when it warm outside; why do we wear blankets when we sit down  to read at night?

Because the capillaries under our most surface skin are dying, thereby carrying less warming blood to the surface of our skin. So we're always cold.

Why do we seem grouchy and complain a lot?

Because our bones ache when its damp, and we remember (with the help of our partners) all the mistakes we've made in our lives. Our hearing and eyesight is failing, the price of everything is always going up, technology is requiring us to learn new things, expanding population is making our life more crowded, and our children are failing us (if not merely disappointing us, they are back home living with us...and blaming us for that underachievement). I finally said to me kids one day when they were really bitching bout me about me failing him: do you think you are what we hoped for when we conceived you? We're as disappointed in your as you are in us. I caught a little break from their complaining about my early parenting.

And finally (turn away, kids,  if your stomach is delicate), when caretakers take us to potty, or bath us, why are our undergarments always stained?

Because the muscles in our penis don't work as efficiently as when we were vital in pushing the urine down and out the tube; nor do the muscles close as efficiently in shutting down the mechanism when all is done; hence, a lot of leaking. As to our backside: just like our face skin isn't smooth anymore, neither are our assholes. They got wrinkled over time just like our faces; and stray bits of make-up gets caught in the crevices of our faces; so does our human waste get caught in the crevices of our ass. Cleansing (witch hazel) pads for both ends are thankfully available in the same section of the supermarket.

So forgive us young folks. We wish we didn't have to operate the bumpy way we do; but the flesh and bones are weak; and the skin is sagging.

Hey, the good news. The way science of aging is developing so fast, maybe, by the time you get our age, perpetual youth will be discovered. And you'll miss experiencing all of the above.

But if not, I hope the above recitation of old-age truths and facts helps you to a little understand what is waiting for you, Have pity on us...especially a little more patience when we hold up the line while we pick up the change from the counter. "Ask not for whom the bell tolls; it may be tolling soon enough for thee and thy caretaker." And nickles, dimes and pennies are important when you no longer have a job and you kids are off spending all their money on yourselves.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Power of Laughter

I laugh to avoid crying, to save me from the blindness of my tears.

I also laugh to escape the bordom of dull talk. I see the serious import of the conversation; I truly do; but while waiting for others to see it fully (or perhaps not caring when and what others see--or think), I co-opt it. I veer off as rapidly as possible to its underbelly: the tasty irony shadowing the truth, the sweet comic present in the bitter tragic; I am eager to taste the happy, sweet/sour taste of life.

I also sometimes laugh to avoid the tension of conversation's truth, or, worse, the repetition of the obvious. Comedy's mask seems more easily worn than than the narrow, sad mask of tragedy. I like the way it hangs on my face; and heart.

This attitude of 'jokester-ism' and my witty comments (at least I think they are) can be off-putting to my co-conversationalists. They think I lack any serious side. They feel I am being indifferent to death, or poverty, or sadness...or whatever great issue is the topic of our spoken moment. Sometimes they think I disrespect them; and their thoughts, or humanity in general. I agree...but I couch my apology in another joke.

Life is short, meaningless (except of course with the meaningfulness we give through our loved ones and our work; or our sense of elegance and dignity). Life should be lived deftly, with a light touch. The sound of laughter gives buoyancy to weightiness, brings lightness to the universe's eternal darkness. I daily hunger for it.

Norman Cousins believed that cancer could not be contracted while laughing; the joyful process arrayed the body's molecules in chemical flows to prevent it. He proclaimed the healing power of jokes.

I agree.

So, please, Dear God: give me the power to laugh in the inexorable, to smirk in the eventual face of existentially argue with a joke to Him that my life has been truly enjoyable. Make my last verbal utterance be a quip, witty and profound, commensurate with the joke He is playing on me.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Maintaining the Economic Fulchrum

The challenge to any political economy is balancing the need to produce bountiful goods and services--by creating a system of incentives that reward and encourage economic creativity to flourish--while at the same time establishing and maintaining the willingness to share the benefits of that creativity, to fashion a distributive system that fairly and equitably rewards all participants effort and contribution; remembering also the dictates of need: "a society is only as high as it's lowest member."

Economic justice and effectiveness demands that effort and merit must be rewarded, while luck (both good and ill) and dishonestly-gotten gain (through unfairly accumulated power) must be disincentivized and negated and abolished.

I yearn for such a system...and we must all work hard to attain it.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Three-legged Stool

Events occur in one's life. They challenge you. They ask you for a philosophical response, a guiding set of approaches, and practical paradigms to live by, to operate by. For me, the framework is like a three-legged stool: leg (1), each day must be spent fighting against the challenges as hard as possible, believing you can win; leg (2), prepare for the worst in case you lose; and leg (3), while fighting to win and preparing to lose, live each day--at least an hour of two--as a joy unto itself; after all, why live except to live? A three-legged stool: fight; insure; enjoy.

Balancing this three-pronged approach is a constant triangulation of effort and equality.  If any side of the trianglation is overwhelmed by the combination of the other two legs, the stool's very shape implodes...and the beauty of its essential nature disappears, and we are doomed to a life of imbalance. If any leg gets longer or shorter than the others, if our daily effort and concentration is spent over- or under- emphasizing one leg more or less than the others, the three-legged stool tips over and we crash to the ground.

Remember: Fight hard to win, prepare well to lose, find daily happiness amidst the struggle. And maintain the balance.