Saturday, August 12, 2017

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Overview Effect; Your Brain on Awe

Have you ever had the experience of feeling your perspective change, in almost a visceral way? After watching this video, I'm a changed person. You might end up that way, too.
As you watch The Overview Effect, you'll see glorious, fragile Earth from the International Space Station, with a narration by some of the astronauts who filmed it. At about the four-minute mark, you'll see thunderstorms, and then the aurora borealis. At about 6:30 you'll hear that the astronauts, while not working, tend to lose themselves in "earthgazing." At 11:10, astronaut Edgar Mitchell says he was both excited and troubled by a certain effect he'd experienced in space, and upon his return, asked a local university if they could find a name for it. They did. It's called salva corpus amanti, which, in this context means, "You see things...with your eyes but you experience them emotionally and viscerally with ecstasy and a sense of totally unity and oneness."
This morning on my way to an appointment, the fog was breaking up, still drifting over newly-green fields in our rural area. Sun began to come through, as well as a bit of blue sky. I watched the cars in front of me rolling along, and I marveled that they stuck to the road instead of floating off into space. I considered my priorities for the day and realized how unimportant they are, and I am. We little ant-people, bustling about on our lovely blue planet, rarely stop to realize how small it all is. This is the after-effect of the video, for me. As I watched the film and heard the transcendent music, I felt tenderness and gratitude for Earth's generosity, and fear for her vulnerability. I'm sure that my being almost sixty adds depth to my appreciation. Enjoy.

Friday, July 13, 2012


If you're post-menopausal and (one hopes) female, you've probably got at least as many years left as the number you spent raising your kids. Men, a little less but still plenty. What milestones might you be looking forward to in this, the second half of your one precious life?

Here's what the culture tells you to expect:
  • You'll lose things: bone density, skin tone, hair (except where you don't want hair. There, you'll get lots of it, overnight and without warning), memory, energy, friends, loved ones.
  • You'll need lots of pills.
  • You'll decline further and die.
Society has no expectations of you in the second half of your life, in contrast to the first:
  • You'll get teeth! You'll stand upright and walk! You'll enter school!
  • You'll get your license! Prom! Graduation! First job!
  • Marriage/kids/career/anniversaries/grandkids!
  • Retirement!!
Then what? Uh oh. See above. So that sucks. What to do, what to do?

Here's what I recommend. We're an independent bunch, right?

Let's establish our own awesome, middle-age-and-older milestones to which one can look forward with delight. If you lived in a different culture than one in which we do (the Hollywood-defined one in which, as Steve Almond says in his profoundly thoughtful introduction to Cheryl's Strayed's new book, explosions/shiny tits comprise our personhood), you might not have to do this, but since you do, you may as well revel in the freedom to make things up. So, what milestones might, in your ideal world, beckon to you in the second half of life?

Here are some ideas to get you started, and then I hope you'll contribute.

  • Women will develop a new and highly personal sense of style, characterized by three essential elements: fashion, comfort, and making young women envious.
  • Pursuit of your grand objective is expected. Whatever dream you've blathered about for the past fifty years or so - travel, a sport, painting, starting a business, writing, reading, thinking, teaching, computer expertise, living fulltime in an RV, photography, dance, singing, escaping - you'll be expected to make major moves in that direction.
  • Your overriding political interest will change from your own good to the welfare of the country and planet. I.E., larger than yourself.
  • Your kids will see you as an example of how to live powerfully in the second half. (They won't pity you, as in this sad little article.)
Listen, people. We're old; we're awesome - those lines in your face speak of hard-won experience. How about we tap into our power instead of giving it away by worshipping at the altar of a culture that tells us that if we're not fertile (women) or kickingass/takingnames (men), we're pointless?

Please share your utopian dreams with us.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Power of Maturity

The late Benazir Bhutto
There's something about turning 50 or being close to it that allows you to benefit from your hard-won experience. This is a time when our life lessons come home.

Jane Fonda
I remember when I was in my 20s and 30s thinking I had everything figured out. But now at almost 60? No comparison. In our younger years, we're just gathering data. Then at some point our vision clears, and we're able to assimilate it. Dr. Christiane Northrup would say that it's because of our changing levels of hormones.
Olympia Snowe

She believes that these hormones were responsible for keeping us complacent and placid during the years that we're fertile. Otherwise, we might go crazy and do something bad to our babies or our mate. Then at a certain point your reproductive ability diminishes and the fog clears (again, this is according to her hypothesis).

Hillary Clinton
The woman now has new perspective, and along with it, a new impatience. I selected the pictures of these famous women because they have that face - they know what I'm talking about. I'm sure you or your friends have looked around at the world, even if only your little slice of it, and suddenly felt unable to tolerate the same old, same old. Did you know the divorce rate is highest among women around age 50 - and it's the women who are instigating them? According to one study, a primary reason for breaking up a long time union is a desire to move to a new city, state, or country, but the husband is unwilling to go.
Sonia Sotomayor

At this time of life, women are freer, no longer responsible for dependent children (at least, theoretically.) At this point we have the strength to handle reality. I recently heard of a middle-aged woman finally giving up and accepting that her birth mother still didn't want her. This heartbreaking truth was probably evident all along, but it took some time for the adoptive daughter to realize and accept it. I suspect she would not have been able to handle it had she been younger and this is why the realization is now hitting her. And life will go on.

Whoopi Goldberg
I've mentioned a million times that I live in a 55+ community. I frequently hear people saying "I'm not going to put up with that anymore." Or, "I'm too old to take that nonsense." As much as I think there's a danger that we might use our age as an excuse to disengage, I really think you do reach a point in life where you are able to gather all of the data that you've collected, look at it with a mature eye, draw conclusions, and then act.

This is empowerment.

This is the time for cutting loose, and letting go, and standing up for ourselves, regardless of the price we might have to pay. The strength and power of this demographic – of us – has never been measured, but you know I'm right. You feel it, don't you? The question is, how are you going to use it?

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Best wishes & fingers crossed for scrappy little SpaceX and the idealist CEO ElonMusk on this morning's splashdown 8:44 Pacific.