Thursday, July 19, 2007

What We Don't Know

This is my sister Chrissie's son Alex's 22nd birthday.

I'm working mostly at home today, and found this beginning-of-an essay:

It is largely blank, or at best some misleading pages, the story of the years ahead of which
we have no previous example. The blank at the end of life, usually conceived of vaguely,
as dark, the dark that falls, the eyelids that close. Fearful or velvety. But the real blank
is not dying, which is in some ways highly imagined, far more familiar than how it feels
to live inside our lives in the years before death. How to be old-- by which I do not mean
ill or frail, but in that period of life that is not under girded with biological optimism: the intrinsically hopeful, forward-aimed fierceness of youth.

Novels, movies, and certainly the advertisers and other students of commercial
demographics are intent on the experience of young adults with their spending power,
their rich blood and resilience, and above all, their genetically programmed belief in the
future. This deep body belief in the future is what fuels sex, and what makes sex useful
in selling. Whatever else we have made of sex (and we’ve made plenty), it is always about
getting individuals of the species to commit resources to making future generations. That’s the engine at the heart of youth – the genetic material demanding replication and continuation.

So when we continue on (the human female I'm told is unique in living many decades beyond her fertility) what is driving us? Partly the habits we learned early on, but also the wonderful generalizing ability; the drive (am I fooling myself here?) to do more for those future generations, one's own descendents, one's own species, perhaps one's own biosphere.

This is my old tune, long may be sing it: learn to make your natural survivalist selfishness include greater and greater circles of beings.

See my brother-in-law's blog entry on getting older:

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