Sunday, November 16, 2014


If my crotchety appreciation is any measure, the central usefulness of the computer lies in its capacity to inform its users 'accurately' about what day of the week it is.

The swift and well-informed may pooh-pooh this minor function on an apparatus which does everything but take a leak for you, but at 74, I find knowing the day of the week helpful: Not imperative, but helpful. Also it gives a false sense of connectedness: It's less lonely.

Yesterday, for example, I traveled through perhaps two-thirds of the day under the assumption that it
was Sunday. The only thing that forced me to rearrange my mind was the pill dispenser that harries so many of those beyond a certain age. I had taken the "Sunday" pills instead of "Saturday." Since the dosages were the same it was no-harm-no-foul but having missed out on a perfectly good Saturday caused me, not for the first time, to stop and think.

It is disquieting to forget what has so long been assumed. How can anyone defeat the loneliness of experiential being without the tendrils of common understanding ... as for example what day of the week it is? Well-dressed wise men will say that designating days is "tentative" (implying en passant that they are not afflicted), and intellectually it makes perfectly good sense: This moment is this moment and that's all. But the fact is that my whole life has been premised to some degree on my agreement with you: Today is "Sunday" and to forget "Sunday" is to be distanced from you and to be, in some sense, less caring or cared for.

Pills and forgetfulness are probably the learning curve that the elderly are consigned to. And make no mistake, it is a learning curve. What is it like to forget the "Boer War" or "the American Revolution," or "the invention of the wheel or steam engine" or "the name of my favorite actor" or "the outrageous fortune" of one social trend or another? What is it like to encounter a situation or thought process that once evoked a profound sense of love or anger and, whaddya know -- it's just not as moving as once, just not as connecting and less lonely?

At first it is disconcerting. But with practice and as time passes and the forgetfulness persists, well, this is the farm you are stuck with. Past perceptions and appreciations are like sea gulls disappearing in the fog over the bay: They're there somewhere, but where, exactly, is not so clear. Once I knew it was "Sunday," once I knew it was "horrific beyond naming," once I knew that one of Russia's last czars employed a six-foot American black man to open the throne room door. It's disconcerting -- up to and including panic -- to forget what binds me not only to you but also what defines and binds me to myself.

Obviously these observations mean little or nothing to those who know today is "Sunday." But others, I think, get my drift.

And as I plod along on my own learning curve, I have noticed that things work out pretty well when I remember the old stand-by, "if you don't know, ask." There is nothing wrong with not knowing, but there can be a lot wrong with not asking ... if knowing is what you're after. And a little at a time, not-knowing is not really all that bad. Is Sunday improved by "Sunday?"

Today, I am keeping up with the Jonses: It's Sunday, although, of course, it may not be.

1 comment:

  1. In reading this i thought i should tell you that i once held an accepted political position, identified with a group. Then after an election decided by the supreme court against the actual vote count, because americans were too fragile to wait, my dad said he was done with voting and politics. He was a skilled armchair quarterback in many fields, knew his stuff always, so i thought maybe i should look at my sacred political position more closely. He's gone now and i'm of the opinion that he was right. I stay peripherally involved, just as a kindness to those most harmed by these things.

    Then this morning i saw an article describing male violence against females in the chimpanzee populations in the wild. Our inclination to violence is so deeply ingrained.

    So, i don't care what day it is anymore, really don't care to live on this planet anymore. My computer has a calendar that will pop up a reminder for anything i must attend to. I grieve for the pain of life, but the social contract was never what it was supposed to be. Thanks dad.