• Reflections on Still Being Here

    • Posted on Jul 23, 2017


    Posted on Jul 23, 2017
    Here's this morning's Courier column--a bit more personal than I usually write, but seemed appropriate to my current state of mind, scattered as it is.  
      

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    Last week I put my early old age behind me and moved into middle old age. 
     I turned 74.    

     Since wisdom has always been in short supply, and since elders are reputed to have access to it occasionally, I thought I’d share a few snippets, insights, and tidbits I’ve been pondering since reaching—uh—full maturity.

     Least to most crucial: 

    • Life is a race between obsolescence and retirement.  Keeping up with work-related technologies and new approaches was fun and challenging at first, then became routine, and finally just a chore.  I avoided Twitter, as should at least one other elder we know.  

    • Don’t underestimate sleep.  Most of us skimp on shuteye, using caffeine to wake up and dragging through the day wishing for more nap time.  When I miss out on sleep, I feel downright mean.   People easily mistake my sleep-deprived personality for a grumpy old man.  Normally I’m wide-awake and nice.  Mostly.   

    • Hydrate.  Here’s the single most important health advice we get. Humans’ bodies are mostly water, and we literally dry up quickly. Health issues from fatigue to cramps to headaches to constipation afflict dehydrated humans.  Drink up and I mean water only.  Boring but true.   

    • Many troubles from trivial to life-threatening are real but not true.  Fear of flying remains my best example.  For years flying terrified me, and I’d get off jets shaking with sweaty palms.  Crashing seemed real and imminent on every flight. I finally got over it, thanks to sheer repetition and a fearless wife. 

    • Replace religious with spiritual.  The great seers, saints, mystics, and seekers world-wide, from Jesus to Buddha to Mohammed to Confucius to Krishna, espoused personal transformations not tied to doctrines.  They were disruptors whose lives led followers to seek enlightenment and transcendence.  Rather than daily getting and spending, they understood life without religious rituals as a spiritual journey.  

    • Meditate.  It’s just common sense to quiet our drunken monkey minds.  It’s free, simple, and may add years to your life, not to mention calm to your days.    

    • Then there’s—sigh—death.  It’s the most feared event in life, at least in our youth-oriented happy-ending culture.  The older we get, the more we notice signs of the grim reaper on our trail, and avoid facing it at all costs.         The ancients certainly faced and explored it extensively, especially Tibetan Buddhists, whose “Book of the Dead” examines various stages of living, dying, and after death.                                                                                                                                               Who are we and what are we living and dying for?  Those are questions that deserve our clear-eyed attention.  There are remarkable answers, both from the ancients and from current “near-death experience” studies, which now are legion.                                                                                                                                            For a serious challenge check out Sogyal Rinpoche’s “The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying.”  It’s the most helpful and engaging explanation of death and dying I’ve found. Bardos here we come.                                                                                                                                                  
                                                                       

    Finally, as Leonard Cohen puts it, “When things get really bad, just raise your glass and stamp your feet and do a little jig. That's about all you can do.”
    Go comment!
    Posted in
    • Health
    • Humor
    • Aging & Birthdays
  • An Inevitable Miracle?

    • Posted on Jul 02, 2017

    This morning's Courier column--the case for Medicare for All as inevitable, given the current aborted repeal and replace--which was always misguided.      

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                Another early July, another wave of love for country, a.k.a. patriotism.  July 4th, that is, with a day for fireworks, picnics, and patriots. 

                Time was.

                Now, not so much. Now we’re like an estranged couple still living together, but not speaking except to protect our separate turfs. Without attitude changes, divorce looms. 

                We’re not there yet, but we’re on track to get there.  A steady 38 percent of our fellow citizens still think “Make American Great Again” actually means something besides empty posturing.  That same group cannot be convinced anything’s really wrong with Republicans except Democrats’ opposition.  They’re followers and fans who seem to have suspended their critical faculties.

                I do remember when it was worse, when citizens were fighting in the streets over an unwinnable war, when a genuinely crooked leader instigated a burglary for political gain, when students were being killed for protesting. It was traumatic. 

                Compared to that late sixties nightmare, we’re only having a bad dream.  Perhaps we’ll wake up, come together, stretch, and start solving problems of health care, infrastructure, climate change,   nuclear-armed lunatics, and terrorism.  That would make for a July 4th worth celebrating.

                But for this holiday, it’s nonstop lying at the top and political paralysis, leaving problems unsolved and unfaced.  Mourning seems more in order than celebrating. 

                Yet there’s another possibility for hope. Unforeseen major events happen, “black swans” that change our world forever. 9-11 was such a cataclysmic black swan, as was Pearl Harbor. 

                Not all black swans are negative, however. Miracles, the opposite of cataclysms, occasionally arise with little warning.

                The Salk vaccine removed the horror of polio in the 1950s which terrorized my childhood, and the fall of the Soviet Union in the 1980s relieved suffering for millions.  Romanians were happily surprised in 1989 when their brutal dictator Ceausescu was deposed and executed.

                So a miracle is possible, and now one seems downright inevitable, thanks to the Trumpcare debacle.

                Medicare for all is coming. Trumpcare—Obamacare minus compassion— seems doomed, either sooner from divided Republicans, or later from Democrats who would almost certainly mount a repeal-and replace effort should Trumpcare pass.

              At some point, what has been obvious to a majority of Americans will occur to politicians: Private insurance doesn’t work in the health care arena.  Never has, never will.  Every other developed country has provided national health as a public right, like clean air, water, and safe food.

                Health care as a right, not a commodity. 

                This means lower costs, because a national healthcare system can negotiate prices with serious leverage for treatment and drugs.   It also brings ease of access, universal coverage, and radically less paperwork—without competing for-profit insurance companies.   

                In fact, with all these pluses, the few problems with universal Medicare seem like minor inconveniences.

                When Trumpcare fails—not if—universal Medicare will inevitably emerge as the best alternative.

                That will be worth celebrating.   

               

               

               

               

                 

               

                

                                                                                               

    Another early July, another wave of love for country, a.k.a. patriotism.  July 4th, that is, with a day for fireworks, picnics, and patriots. 

                Time was.

                Now, not so much. Now we’re like an estranged couple still living together, but not speaking except to protect our separate turfs. Without attitude changes, divorce looms. 

                We’re not there yet, but we’re on track to get there.  A steady 38 percent of our fellow citizens still think “Make American Great Again” actually means something besides empty posturing.  That same group cannot be convinced anything’s really wrong with Republicans except Democrats’ opposition.  They’re followers and fans who seem to have suspended their critical faculties.

                I do remember when it was worse, when citizens were fighting in the streets over an unwinnable war, when a genuinely crooked leader instigated a burglary for political gain, when students were being killed for protesting. It was traumatic. 

                Compared to that late sixties nightmare, we’re only having a bad dream.  Perhaps we’ll wake up, come together, stretch, and start solving problems of health care, infrastructure, climate change,   nuclear-armed lunatics, and terrorism.  That would make for a July 4th worth celebrating.

                But for this holiday, it’s nonstop lying at the top and political paralysis, leaving problems unsolved and unfaced.  Mourning seems more in order than celebrating. 

                Yet there’s another possibility for hope. Unforeseen major events happen, “black swans” that change our world forever. 9-11 was such a cataclysmic black swan, as was Pearl Harbor. 

                Not all black swans are negative, however. Miracles, the opposite of cataclysms, occasionally arise with little warning.

                The Salk vaccine removed the horror of polio in the 1950s which terrorized my childhood, and the fall of the Soviet Union in the 1980s relieved suffering for millions.  Romanians were happily surprised in 1989 when their brutal dictator Ceausescu was deposed and executed.

                So a miracle is possible, and now one seems downright inevitable, thanks to the Trumpcare debacle.

                Medicare for all is coming. Trumpcare—Obamacare minus compassion— seems doomed, either sooner from divided Republicans, or later from Democrats who would almost certainly mount a repeal-and replace effort should Trumpcare pass.

              At some point, what has been obvious to a majority of Americans will occur to politicians: Private insurance doesn’t work in the health care arena.  Never has, never will.  Every other developed country has provided national health as a public right, like clean air, water, and safe food.

                Health care as a right, not a commodity. 

                This means lower costs, because a national healthcare system can negotiate prices with serious leverage for treatment and drugs.   It also brings ease of access, universal coverage, and radically less paperwork—without competing for-profit insurance companies.   

                In fact, with all these pluses, the few problems with universal Medicare seem like minor inconveniences.

                When Trumpcare fails—not if—universal Medicare will inevitably emerge as the best alternative.

                That will be worth celebrating.   

               

               

               

               

                 

               

                

    Go comment!
    Posted in
    • Politics
    • Hot Button Issues
    • Predictions
    • Conservatives/Liberals
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“Even before the advent of the Internet, Cawelti’s columns went 'viral' in the Cedar Valley… the role of a columnist is to be thought provoking, to take tacks that shed a different light on an issue or possibly cause a reader to reevaluate a position. At the very least, it should bring clarity to a particular perspective, whether you buy into the commentator’s worldview or not.

Scott's work does just that.  Enjoy this collection of his writing.”

-Saul Shapiro, Former Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier Editor
Read Shapiro's entire introduction.

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