Quiet moment at home with Burnsie

A goal of mine for 2016 is re-reading the books which have been especially influential in my life over the past six years as I’ve worked to define a new ‘normal’ after Charlotte’s death, composting grief into growth.

I plucked my prize short-list of books from bookcases and stacks on my office floor and stacked the volumes, large and small, beside my reading lamp in my library as symbolic “scholar’s chair” to be re-read and savored one by one.

James Hillman bookAt the top of my stash, and the book I’m currently re-reading, is James Hillman’s book, The Force of Character and the Lasting Life (Random House, NY., 1999. 237 pp). Hillman is a Jungian therapist, philosopher, and eclectic scholar who is also a trenchant and compelling writer. He doesn’t write because he has to say something; he writes because he has something rich to say!

The Force of Character is unlike any book on aging you’ve ever read. In it, this wise and erudite therapist invites the reader to re-frame aging and growing old, to re-imagine death and dying in fresh ways revolving around his central thesis that aging is Life crystallizing our distinct and non-transferable character. It is THAT character, the quirky and different, the particular and peculiar way of living and being which defines us and which lives on in hearts and lives when we die; it is our character which lasts. I believe this book ought to be read and discussed in Senior Centers across the land.

Here’s the way Hillman succinctly sums up character:

“By definition, character refers to the distinguishing marks that make a thing recognizably different from every other thing. Each character is held to itself by the qualities peculiar to it. It is necessarily limited by its own qualifications. A ‘bad’ character could refer only to an utterly empty one, a person with no distinguishing characteristics whatsoever, innocent of qualities, a blank. If sins are your only qualities, you may be without morals, but not without character . . . . I am compelled and constrained by what I do not control. Character forces me to encounter each event in my peculiar style. It forces me to differ. I walk through life oddly. No one else walks as I do, and this is my courage, my dignity, my integrity, my morality, and my ruin.” (pp 179-181)

Hillman is all about ‘lightening up’ when it comes to aging and character. Right on cue on a recent morning, I got a hearty laugh from an unexpected source. After reading and underlining in Hillman’s pages, I put the book aside and walked outside onto my west patio overlooking the irrigation canal and my grass field, my mind filled with new perspective on my own aches and pains. I walked to the double gates where I paused in quiet contemplation, looking out over the field and beyond.

Tevye, the goat, wears a 'feather' in his cap“Na-a-a–a … Na-a-a–a!” brought me quickly back to this gentleman farmer’s reality. It was Tevye, my Nigerian goat, on the other side of the gates looking up at me ‘modeling’ the latest goat couture — and showing off his own ‘Old Goat’ Character! He was wearing a long stalk of dried weed plant wedged between his horns and ears. I have no idea where he picked it up or what he was ‘into’ to achieve his debonair look. All I could think of was he’d “stuck a feather in his cap, and called it macaroni!”

I burst out laughing, knowing that Hillman himself would be the loudest guffaw over Tevye’s impromptu demonstration of “character”!

Three ‘old goats’ shared a laugh, a demonstration, and a truth that day. What’s it all about? It’s about embracing and celebrating what’s non-transferable in us, what’s particular and peculiar; it’s about the one-of-a-kind feathers we’ve stuck in your cap which those who know and love us will call macaroni!

Joseph Harvill, Scottiephile

Contemplative moment at home with Burnsie

My sweetheart, Anna, and I are preparing for her upcoming hip replacement surgery. From the look of things, there’s a long line of gimpy Baby Boomers waiting for new hips and knees and other replacement parts — and that’s just in Albuquerque! Human ‘body shops’ fixing worn out body parts is a growth industry, alright.

Right on cue, I’m reading James Hillman’s erudite book, The Force of Character and The Lasting Life — a fascinating page-turner book of brilliant insights on aging from an eclectic, think-outside-the-box Jungian therapist.

I’m learning every day that it’s true, old age is NOT for sissies. It’s also NOT for those who’ve forgotten how to play and laugh and see the humor in aging.

In the spirit of laughing at our all too real predicament of life in and out of the ‘repair’ shop, I share the following couple of howlers sent to me by Anna, my soon-to-be Very ‘Hip’ Girlfriend, who is an avid Facebook troller. The first is for all of us whose thumbs are too big and too old to text as eight year olds do. The second piece is simply the story of a very quick witted Senior whose wit we each can envy.


Young people have theirs.

Now Seniors have their own texting codes:

* ATD - At the Doctor’s

* BFF - Best Friends Funeral

* BTW - Bring the Wheelchair

* BYOT - Bring Your Own Teeth

* CBM - Covered by Medicare

* CUATSC - See You at the Senior Center

* DWI - Driving While Incontinent

* FWIW - Forgot Where I Was

* GGPBL - Gotta Go, Pacemaker Battery Low

* GHA - Got Heartburn Again

* HGBM - Had Good Bowel Movement

* LMDO - Laughing My Dentures Out

* LOL - Living on Lipitor

* OMSG - Oh My! Sorry, Gas

* TOT - Texting on Toilet

* WAITT - Who Am I Talking To?

Hope these help. GGLKI

(Gotta Go, Laxative Kicking in!)

And another belly laugh, from Roflmayo’s Facebook page: a Laugh Out Loud story of a Senior whose mind is sharper than most!

Joseph Harvill, Scottiephile