On the edge of my fourth decade, one of the changes I've noticed is that I'm constantly wondering why, when the world is so big, so full of true wonder, people continue to want to make it small? One of my nephews, who is newly five and will be starting kindergarten next month, has suddenly decided that the biggest thing to worry about are those darned werewolves that seem to be hiding in the shadow of every tree after the sun travels west and sinks in the sky. I wonder if someone 35-years my senior would consider my worries equally innocent, equally naive?
I would imagine so. Because I can also imagine that in another 35 years, I will simply no longer care about people's general disposition to wrap themselves up as tightly as possible, as if yearning once again for the safety and closeness of the womb--where there truly was one God--and when you could no longer eat and drink of her body and blood, she cast you out into the world. Naked and cold, and totally helpless, all you could do was scream. You were then subjected to all kinds of humiliations; completely dependent on others for everything, fear became a constant companion. Even as babies, we understand the limits of the human condition.
And we are limited. It takes a certain level of intelligence to understand those limits--one of my favorite sayings from Albert Einstein was about his view on stupidity--it is different than genius in that it has no limits.
I was lucky enough to have watched a documentary about Katharine Hepburn recently. It was made in 1992. She died eleven years later, at age 96. What struck me was how much I related to Hepburn's perspectives on life--in the film, she was more than twice my age today. If you're a regular reader, you know that my four decades has been over-full of adversity, from abuse to neglect, from cancer to disability--the road over the last four decades has been a long one. I would imagine my perspective at Hepburn's age, should I be lucky enough to live that long, will be more akin to someone closer to 120 years than 80. And I'm not alone.
Because of the nature of our 21st century society, more and more people are burning out of life at very young ages--and not just figuratively. Cancer is on the rise. Cancer death is on the decline but it's a false statistic--as medical technology improves, so do the windows of survival. However, cancer has no cure. Many simply don't connect that a lack of cure and remission mean two different things. Remission is when the cancer is sleeping, in effect. It's not gone. The term "cancer-free" is ridiculous. It's a falsehood. One is never "cancer-free." Cancer evolves at the cellular level--are you aware of something I'm not? Can doctors now examine every cell in every part of your body? Of course not. The "treatments" for cancer are little more than extended band-aids. And cancer is only one of our major social problems burning the life out of people.
I worry about the world. It's such a terrific place--and I know there are horrors that are unthinkable as well--but the wonders...oh, the wonders! Yet, unless more people can begin to see through the eyes that have seen 80 years of change, or at least the equivalent of it, what is to become of us?
An impossibility paired with an improbabilty doesn't evoke much hope, does it?
That's another change that's suddenly gripped me in the last five years, fear. Lots of it. I've seen too much to remain naive. I've lived too long to be innocent. All that's left is fear. And hope...fear's twin. You only hope in the midst of fear. Never the twain shall part. I finally understand an old professor's disdain for my love of hope--and yes, we were studying philosophy. Hope makes us feel better but we then fail to recognize why we needed it in the first place. Hope is an illusion. But it's my drug of choice, I suppose. For, if we live, and HOPE to live long, we will certainly be afraid--if we've even lived a day we should be--and so, in that shadow of what is constant fear about one thing or another, our amazing brains, in an effort to survive, provide us with the right chemical IMBALANCE to issue hope into our psyches.
When my nephew confided to me about the werewolf problem, I told him that I was an expert on all things supernatural--a doctor of it, in fact--and that I knew, without doubt, that there are no real werewolves or monsters of any kind. But heroes are real. "Like Superman?" he asked, wide-eyed.
I answered an unwavering "yes."