Incredible Realization Late in Life

I am old. I do not feel old because I am (knock on wood) healthy. What has gotten me here healthy? Study skill in habit formation. Reading skill and breadth. Listening skill of selective attention. Avoidance. Determination rather than going with the social flow and recognizing bad influences and urgings. Owning and creating my self concept. Prudence. Cerebral control. I could go on. I will get to the point.

I always felt smart, in a quiet way. I was not conscious that I had a good brain. But I felt that I should always be in charge of it, and it, I know now, was prudent because I seemed always to be self-directed. I had some sense of right and wrong, for me, what I could do. What I might do. What I must not do. I believe a permissive mother allowed me to be on my own some or much of the time. Early experience going to church, begun by my very devout mother, inculcated in me a fact that there is a very distinct difference between what you do is right or wrong, what you do is bad and what is good, moral or immoral, in general. So there was good and there was bad. I had to judge, with a big nudge from fundamentalist religion.

I have since realized that that religious nudge was too overpowering, not allowing me to think and judge for myself what would condemn me to eternal hell-fire and damnation. Church people were not real, too “other-worldly”, rather than “this-worldly”. They used extreme, scarifying tactics on the mind that I could examine and question, and examine and question I DID, eventually. Especially in the realm of “sex”.  Sex and sin. Sex as sin. Sex is sin. Wrongo dongo! Sex education there was none. There was never a Sunday school lesson referencing sex. Taboo subject matter, only for sniggering. Religion let me down in several areas, but especially that. Science is a better, more reliable guide. I like its “this-worldliness”.

Subsequent study and exposure to literature contributed that “humanism” that I, and all people, need. They meant well, but they went too far. And that may have been the good they ultimately did for me, in their being too threatening and unreal. “Sinners in the hands of an angry God!” fundamentalism. They are always there to spread their flame.

The goblins ‘l getcha if ya don’t watch out!

Too much gluten is the principle of my new religion, the diet. Do-it-yourself health study. You are your own devil and deity. Nutrition, diet. Exercise. A good marriage. Study. Degrees. Good employment. Friends who are models of intellect and health and habit.

But here is my point, at last. All that above is prologue. I have made much of my life. I have written my history in brief form, and it looks loaded with accomplishment. I am now a widower. Alone. After more than a half century of a partnership with a good woman. “Ve get too soon old und too late schmart.” The silence now is deafening. We had a gluten-free marriage. And in that state of being I can think more clearly, if too late.

I look at a knife on the table for my lonely breakfast of tea and toast. It is our stainless steel. Then I look at a knife from her side of the family, silver, with a fancy carved “J” on the handle. From her family’s Victorian mansion, where we lived the first six years with only her aged mother the survivor, who died after several years. All that family history and well-being has come down to me alone. There was more to it than I now realize. And I let it go, unexamined. My wife the daughter, her mother, and me, living in that great, four-storied house. My mother and father long gone. I missed it, with my own family in Indiana, and with what remained of her’s, her mother. Why was I so dense? Now I live with all the leavings of that home in a state far away from it in distance and time. I look at the silver and the pieces of furniture that have come down to me, at this too-late stage, and crave what I cannot have. What is my regret? Oh, I know it well. It haunts me. There is no remedy. If I only knew then what I know now! This is when silence is deafening.

But I will tell you this. These are my wishes that would have filled a void I feel in my history. My old mother. My old dad. Her old mother. (Her dad died at the conclusion of the war. The town druggist. Worked hard during the war. Smoked.) What I should have done. What I omitted in my life story as I put it together. Now realized, too late as I sit here recalling what I could, should have done. A very important communication act. I am bitter that I did not do it, as I sit in that old chair in my living room where she sat in it daily in her waning years, quietly, watching her daughter and me go about our business as usual.

Go to her. Sit beside her, or across from her. For a visit. Ask her. Take from what she says, and make a comment, and a question. Learn from her, what she has to teach. She was a principal. What was her view of education, my game? Listen to the anecdotes. What was her view of learning? Who was her best student? And why? How did she raise her daughter, my wife? On what principle, or principles? Was she a good student? And so on with all the how’s and why’s. I am sorry that did not happen.

Just the act of engaging her was what was important. It may have dignified her opinion of me and may have done her some good. And that principle, to me, is important to operate in all my interactions with whomever I have conversations. In each interaction, try to raise the level of it to some general level of principle. That person may give you some important insight. We learn by insight. A chimp will see outside his cage a banana the fell too far to reach. So he sees a stick as a tool to pull the banana within his reach and a banana feast. Human insight in far more complicated matters is important everyday. There are so many insights that we lack. We must always be looking for insight. Everywhere. Do not discount old people. And thus I shake my didactic finger. Mostly at myself.

One Secret of a Long Life

I was reminded today that one secret for a long life is, in addition to basic to plus intelligence

— you cannot be dumb unless you are fortunate enough to have dumb luck along with your sub-par intelligence, and I suppose people who are capable of accessing this message and reading it have basic to plus smarts —

to have,

— as well as a further development of that intelligence through some systematic training and education —

a characteristic trait of long survivors.

Everyone is growing older, but not everyone will be old. To grow to be old requires PRUDENCE, something I have written about previously, as you may see.

I had a friend, a close buddy back in my early twenties. He was very smart. But he did not have the prudence to avoid driving smack into a mountain side in the early morning after driving all night in Arizona headed for Colorado.

I once rode with him in his Chevvy convertible. Early in th a.m. he was driving while I was sleeping in the back seat. I awoke to the car careening violently from side to side. I was thrown from side to side but not “out”. He had fallen asleep. I thought of that as I was traveling to his funeral. So young!

Where does prudence come from? I think I know, but I only know from observing people.

Prudence is, I believe, instilled in upbringing. Parents who show some freedom from any absolute control allow many opportunities for the child to experience “right judgment”, discretion in practical affairs from a basic permissiveness, control from a safe parental distance.

Giving the child choices, the child selecting choices, and the parent asking the child to assess the choice made. Not the parent telling the child the best choice the parent would have made, but analyzing through questioning how the best choice for the child was made. To me, that leaving the child to act, through a permissive parent, and to experience the effects of the choices made. I think prudence is taught inductively at a young age.

My friend did not have that because his aged mother did not have her husband to help bring my buddy through his early years. Maybe I am right. Maybe I am wrong. I am reasoning also from my own experience with a permissive mother.

I consider myself to be a prudent individual. I am old. I wish I could say what would give the young the electric ZAP that would instill the magic acts of judicious behavior.

As a Post-Script, I will add some additional “secrets” that I will not expand on at this time. I should not have entitled this “One Secret”. I keep cogitating on the subject and coming up with additional characteristics that would be a nice assistance, although “prudence” would provide a high octane energy to take one the furthest.

  1. One major prudent act is marriage! And, then in addition, these that would bring to marriage supreme results:
  2. empathy
  3. curiosity
  4. stamina
  5. sex education

    (regarding this one, I did not have it, and could have used it because I have recently seen some videos on that subject, called “Real Sex”, and I learned there is a great deal to be learned and a great deal that has not been taught, which I would call an American tragedy to be laid at the doorsteps of all the prudes we have in a vast majority of our fellow citizens–shame! shame! shame on them! All through the program I kept saying, “I should have known that! Why didn’t I learn that? I wish I had been taught early on about this!” This subject is a very large part of “prudence”. I was married 54 years, happily, but–)
  6. the work ethic (eschew laziness)
  7. Egalitarianism would prevent one from becoming the male, chauvinist pig, and the other a female chauvinist sow in the relationship. One sex is not superior to the other. Sex has a complimentarity: a relation between two opposite states or principles that together exhaust the possibilities

But I do not want to take anything away from the main point, being prudence, in all choices.

Beware of the Imprudent! The impudent IMPRUDENT will getcha if ya don’t watch out! Imprudence can take you down very quickly. Stop associating with the imprudent, or clue them in nicely, but be effective if you want to live and also associate with him or her or them! (There’s that old didactic finger wagging in your face again. But that’s me!)

Prudence. Prudence Tested?

At every stop light, your prudence will be tested. Tested especially if you have someone riding shotgun with you, urging you on. To beat the yellow light. To make the left turn before the oncoming car gets here. All going against your individual sense of prudence. Aye, there’s the rub. You have been tested.

You must resist those urgings, if you value your own sense of what is safe and prudent. If you yield to the urgings that deny your own sense of what is correct, and right, then your prudence is questionable; you’ve failed the prudence test.

I once read a book (or article) by an eminent child psychologist, a Scotsman, a contribution that took that field by storm. In his observations of children at play, he documented the fact that older children urging younger children to do something will be the cause of more injuries to the younger. The younger child was being asked to do something beyond his ability but well within the capabilities of the older child. The younger children were not aware of their ineptitudes, behaviors requiring more maturity, maturation, experience or training, and at the moment needed “prudence” (discretion, right judgment, discernment) to resist the urgings that may come in the form of a dare, a challenge more like a threat. You know how kids do. And so it seems do “adults”.

The driving situation is a good, and crucial, spot to test your prudence. Can you resist urgings that would override your judgment? Or, do you have a developed prudence for safe driving.






I have learned, since writing this, that more lethal accidents take place, killing teen-agers, when there are more than two of them riding in the car with the teen-age driver. The kids sort of “riot” in the car, fun loving. A recipe for disaster, and very, very often it will happen that they get carried away among themselves, and subsequently, by the ambulances and hearses. They become totally imprudent, and quite often fatally so, as demonstrated by the stats I saw announced on a television news show.

Published in: on April 5, 2010 at 11:28 am  Comments (42)