Archive for March, 2009

The Pleasures of Age: Ambition fades

March 30, 2009

Being an only child, I was never really ambitious; but I did suffer from the idea that I probably should be, which may be more invidious than raw ambition itself. Ambition at least has the energy of desire behind it; but that other sense, of someone over my shoulder prodding me to get competitive before it was too late, gave me nothing but agony. I was grateful when I learned, finally, to joke with this fellow and take him less seriously. (more…)

The Pleasures of Age: Don’t mind him, he lives here

March 30, 2009

                  One of the great surprises of aging is that I have become invisible. I can go a couple of days without shaving, wear old clothes, and walk down the street, and you won’t see me. I can put on a suit and attend the opera and no one notices. I blend in. No one is aware of the apocalyptic thoughts percolating through my brain; no one checks my math as I see whether one license plate number is divisible by another. No one suspects I am Joseph K., desperately seeking a path through an imaginary legal labyrinth.

No, I am not the Shadow, the old radio hero who had “the power to cloud men’s minds,” and who knew what evil lurked in the heart of man.  Nor am I a Ninja warrior, practiced in the art of concealment, on a secret mission from Sufi central. I am not even a spy cloaked in that secret new fabric that bends light around it instead of reflecting it. I am simply another old fart, taking a stroll in the sunshine. Invisible. (more…)

The Pleasures of Age: Who Knew?

March 30, 2009

As one who has from the beginning taken the part of the grasshopper against the ant, I had never given much thought as to what it would be like to be old.  There is a huge literature about it, but in it you might read almost anything, all sorts of conflicting accounts and recommendations. It’s like a chorus of the blind describing not an elephant, but an entire universe. From many reports, the place seems to be filled with tribulation: aches, pains and diseases, loneliness, ungrateful or addicted children, penury, incontinence, loss of independence. Age, Matthew Arnold wrote, is not golden, but cold. Why borrow trouble? Since one would eventually, if one were lucky, see for one’s self what this universe is like, there was little point in speculating about it.

Age actually arrived, of course, as a total surprise. I remember the moment exactly: (more…)

Observing Up Close: A Walk Through Salvadoran Democracy

March 23, 2009


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By Cliff Barney 

(The writer, a journalist based in Santa Cruz, CA, spent ten days in January 2009 in El Salvador as an observer of the legislative and municipal elections, in which the leftist FMLN, the Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional, increased its parliamentary lead and laid the foundation for an eventual capture of the presidency in March.  Here is his report on the electoral process. He can be reached at cbarney@jeffnet.org.)

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