LIVES WELL LIVED, HOW DO WE MEASURE IT?

At California Polytechnic State University, students can take a class in the Psychology of Aging. Since I’m qualified if only by my increasing age to know something on the topic, I recently joined a set of older adults from Colorado affiliated with a nonprofit called Senior Planet, matched with a group of students in the class. We met online via Zoom, as so many activities are conducted now, and got to know one another over a series of three meetings, asking each other questions about lives, beliefs, and lessons we’ve learned.

My contact, Alexandra, a senior, is primarily interested in animal science, an area I know nothing about, with the exception of admiring researcher-writer-professor Temple Grandin. Her minor is psychology, which was my major in college. So we were thrown together and asked to determine what we could gain from one another. The details are probably less important than the overall findings although we discovered we have two things in common. We both are INTJ on the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator, a psychological approach to categorizing human personalities. And we both periodically suffer from what we call “rocks in our heads,” or benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), which makes us extremely dizzy.

The other participants were as different as we two. So how do you measure if a life has been well-lived? As Einstein said, “Just because a thing can be counted doesn’t mean it should be counted.” You have to rely on personal opinions.

Interesting to me were the final reports. Nearly all of the older participants advised that success in life does not lie in status, money, titles, or material possessions, but in self-satisfaction, being with loved ones, and feeling a passion about something, whether that’s a cause, a hobby, an activity. Remaining curious was mentioned frequently as a good quality.

As for the students, most surprising were their previous attitudes toward older adults. I think we were running into many stereotypes and ageism: older people are boring and bored, older people are ”fragile,” a term I particularly despise, both physically and mentally; older adults have nothing to share with students. But by the end, and due to the continuing interactions, the students had reversed their opinions. Both younger and older groups felt the project had personally benefitted them.

The basis for the project was Lives Well Lived, a feature documentary film by Sky Bergman, that celebrates the incredible wit and wisdom of adults 75 to 100 years old who are living their lives to the fullest. Encompassing over 3000 years of experience, forty people shared their secrets and insights to living a meaningful life. I found the subjects of the film to be inspiring myself. During these times of mass quarantines, I’ll take as many positive outlets as I can get.

COLORADO ELECTIONS 2020 (GUIDES, ADVICE)

“I fretted myself about the mistakes of government, like other people; but finding myself every day grow more angry, and the government growing no better, I left it to mend itself.” Oliver Goldsmith

This frequently is my emotional reaction to politicians, politics, and elections. Yet can we sit idly by and not make our opinions known when we fail to vote? I know the ballots are long, the claims contradictory, and the issues confusing. But a number of resources help us to make sense of them.

One of the best known is the League of Women Voters’ bi-partisan, well-reasoned, even-handed approach. Visit https://www.vote411.org/personalized-voting-info, and you access Colorado and Denver info.

In his wisdom, Oliver Goldsmith also waxed eloquent on laws in general:
“The laws govern the poor, and the rich govern the law.”

Don’t get too depressed. From local news source the Denverite, another look at the Denver ballot issues, no candidates:
https://denverite.com/2020/10/12/how-to-put-your-part-of-this-election-behind-you-immediately-a-denverite-ballot-guide/

On the other hand, you may want some guidance about the people actually running. Here’s the Denver Post’s suggestions: https://www.denverpost.com/opinion/endorsements/

Finally, a positive note about humanity and the election process: “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” Oscar Wilde

Colorado Public Radio has a handy guide to nearly everything, candidates, issues, amendments. It also includes the “Blue Book” from the State Legislative Council, that attempts to evaluate the fiscal impact of measures. https://www.cpr.org/2020/10/12/vg-2020-colorado-voter-guide-november-election/

THE NEW AGE OF MOB RULE

Compare contemporary times to the French Revolution. No similarities? Think again. Mob rule held sway. It’s been estimated that over 40,000 aristos were murdered in the name of justice. We shake our heads in wonder that people were so susceptible to a reign of terror. But are we really so different in this time of pandemic?

Nowadays the gauntlet initially is thrown down by calling someone racist or accusing them of violating pandemic orders or hinting at misconduct. The mob attacks online, cheered on by the media which spreads rumors, creates straw polls to encourage people to vote on misleading, even malevolent suggestions. How many viewers are in favor of this-or-that? Who thinks such-and-such is wrong? This is known as “mob mentality.”

Consequences are mind-boggling. People have lost jobs, felt they had to resign, been driven to drop off social media, even commit suicide when they’ve done nothing wrong. Men have been dogged with sexual misconduct accusations. People get labeled “racist” when all they’ve done is make a statement or ask a question. Dueling rallies clash—pro police, anti police, whatever.

If you’re like me, you pride yourself on being an individual. You may not want to admit the influence of mass culture on you, but individualistic people are just as susceptible to mob rule as different personalities. Also strangely enough, what people claim they value or believe may be completely opposite from how they act.

We assert nowadays that everyone’s opinion is valued. In truth, we can state almost any opinion, but to gain visibility or support, we have to agree with the pronouncement of the primary advocate. Otherwise you’re threatened with exclusion or even violence. Look at the Black Lives Matter demonstrations. The “pro” people pulled in lots of advocates. Then the “anti” folks stormed in on the opposite side, leading to lots of angry demonstrators, exciting visuals with battling crowds, fires, shouts and screams; along with hour after hour of newscasters just as hysterical as they shrieked blow-by-blow accounts. And, unfortunately, deaths.

Long ago, anthropologist Gustave le Bon said a crowd of demonstrators was greater than the sum of the individuals in it. It seems to have an existence, a group “consciousness.” He believed that the individuals become submerged in the crowd and lose their sense of individual responsibility under cover of the anonymity.
I find myself in the strange position of opposing these frantic, frenetic furies despite my passionate defense of individualism. They seem not infrequently to tip from mere expression to belligerent demands and attempts to control everyone else’s beliefs and behavior. I wonder if we get a secondhand high from the roiling emotions and expressions that make our blood boil and put our brain on alert. But I wish we’d give it up. Let’s step back and demonstrate our true commitment to differing opinions by welcoming everyone’s without an instant rush to judgment.

BILINGUAL POET LAUNCHES WEBSITE WITH RESOURCES FOR ALL

(Guest blog by Dr. Ricardo J. Bogaert-Álvarez

I am an engineer and poet with thirty years of experience writing, publishing and teaching poetry. I’d like to introduce to you my bilingual website, . In my website you’ll find several sections: 1) poems, 2) haiku, 3) lessons, 4) publications, 5) blog and 6) about (a short biography). 

In the Poems section I show several of my typical poems. Their themes range from the romantic to the political, without forgetting the erotic. Each poem shows the English and Spanish versions. In the Haiku section you’ll find several haiku and senryu I have composed with additional notes about their origins and themes. In the near future I’ll also present articles about haiku and interesting haiku from other poets.

In the Lessons section, I am presenting articles about poetic themes and forms. For example, I’m showing now the way Spanish poets count the number of syllables in their lines for their formal poems. If you ever want to properly study formal Spanish poetry, this information nugget will be very useful to you. In the future I may introduce and discuss poetic works of other poets, especially Dominicans.

In the Publications section, you’ll find the introduction to one of my four poetry books. This month I’m showing the introduction to my romantic chapbook “Not Written in the Stars.” As a matter of fact, you can obtain a free electronic copy of this book by reading this section. In the Blog you can participate with your comments.

SLOAN’S LAKE GEESE(1)
Los Gansos del Lago (2) (Traducción)
1
Lake geese, not afraid
of cars nor snow nor people
such intrepid souls
2
Intrépidos gansos del lago
ni de carros, nieve o gente
tienen miedo

Doctor Ricardo J. Bogaert-Álvarez is a Dominican-American chemical engineer and poet. He was born in Santiago, Dominican Republic and grew up in a hacienda. After he obtained his B.S. at the PCUMM in Santiago and then obtained his chemical engineering masters and PhD at the University of Delaware. He has lived in the United States since 1981 and resides in Denver with his beloved wife Laura. He has published poems in the “El Sol” newspaper, “The New Press,” the Horizons” anthology and the “American Institute of Chemical Engineers” supplement among other publications.

He has published three poetry books: 1) “The Samurai Poet,” 2) “The Mask Behind My Face” (which is available in Amazon Kindle) and more recently “The Dance of the Phoenix.” In the latter book, each poem is in Spanish and English. He presented “The Dance of the Phoenix” in five cities of Colorado and in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 2019. This was followed by a tour in Dominican Republic where he presented this book in four cities during the month of March, 2020.

He is the vice president of the Columbine Poets, a poetry club at the state level in Colorado. In poetry contests of this club, he has won a third prize (2019) and an honorable mention (2015) in the formal poetry category and an honorable mention in the category of prose poem (2019). Contact information: drbogaert@gmail.com. Website https://www.drbogaert.com/

GROCERY STORES AS SOCIAL CENTERS

Humans need social contact. They long for it, lust after it, seek it more than water. I’ve found my COVID connection—the local grocery store. King’s is opening at 7 a.m. on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for people over 60, and at other times the store’s very active. It’s easy to chat with any passersby. We all act as if we’re participating in a semi-criminal activity.

In order to give structure to our daily visits, my husband and I track the status of restocking. When Denver’s shut-down was just on the horizon, it was my turn to grocery shop. On March 5, I was able to get everything on my list although toilet paper and paper towels were low. Four days later, paper products had disappeared, along with a hefty amount of fresh produce, cereal and crackers. Over the course of ten days, ebbs and flows occurred on lunch meat, hot dogs, canned goods, eggs. Long-gone and perhaps never reappearing—fresh o.j., fresh potatoes, pizzas.

We don’t really need to shop daily, but I’m concerned if we don’t at least look like we’re browsing, we’ll be ejected. With dictate after dictate coming down on size of group gatherings, from 1000 to 500 to 250 to 100 to 25 to 10, I envision police officers, who have been instructed not to write traffic tickets, switching to charges for congregating.

San Francisco’s Shelter in Place legislation makes exemptions for hardware stores, laundromats, banks, shipping services, professional services, such as legal or accounting services. While restaurants are prohibited from allowing people to eat on their property, the other categories don’t mention this. Therefore we’ll soon encounter the strange sight of people grabbing a sandwich at the grocery store, then strolling over to the local laundromat to eat.

I wondered whether I might be pulled over driving to a friend’s for lunch. Luckily, again citing San Francisco’s rules, people are allowed to “travel to care for elderly, minors, dependents, persons with disabilities, or other vulnerable persons.” Since the people I want to visit are mostly “elderly” by definition or my kids or grandkids, and everyone else of any age is edging toward mental vulnerability, again I think I can get away with visiting them.

Back to grocery stores. Recalling the popularity of oldies walking around shopping centers a number of years ago, my husband and I trudged through snow banks to walk the grocery store circuit three times, with strolls up and down various aisles to vary the routine. We spent about an hour and did, indeed, get some eggs and frozen waffles. However, I must report that my husband lacks true diligence because he spends more time reading labels than walking. I made several new acquaintances and thanked store employees for their hazardous duties.

COVID is making changes in my life. By and large they’ve been positive because they’ve energized me and flooded my writer’s brain with lots of ideas. Let’s see what else happens.