Monday, April 23, 2007

NPR's Commentaries on Aging

This morning, I heard on National Public Radio a fine essay read during Morning Edition in its continuing, once-a-week, broadcast series "This I Believe".

This I Believe is a national media project engaging people in writing, sharing, and discussing the core values and beliefs that guide their daily lives. NPR airs these three-minute essays on Morning Edition and All Things Considered. The project is based on the popular 1950s radio series of the same name hosted by Edward R. Murrow.
Today's essay, entitled "As I Grow Old", was written & read by David Greenberger. His interactions with aging folks have affirmed his belief that "the elderly friends he's made over time are teaching him how to grow old."
* * * It's a mistake to think that old people have special secrets to impart or pearls of wisdom to hand out. Pearls are a rare commodity and you have to work to find them. The most valuable thing for me has been getting to know my elderly friends in the moment — wherever the conversations may lead — rather than through often-told stories from their past. Tales of events before my birth won't necessarily help me know someone better.

That's part of the wonder of relationships: Anything that happened before we knew each other is slightly mysterious. It's only the present we can know. And a conversation in the present is given shape by the lifetime of events and ideas that preceded it. There's no need to go fishing for the past; it will make itself known. * * *
Growing older, he concludes, is not about remembering a longer past; it is about experiencing daily occurrences -- living presently.
As I grow old, I know issues that were once of great concern to me won't seem important anymore. I believe that having something new happen, no matter how small, is what makes for a healthy day, no matter how many days may be left.
I recall hearing other meaningful essays on past Monday mornings, read by their authors in the "This I Believe" series, including:
  • "The Deeper Well of Memory" (April 9, 2007) -- "Watching her mother battle Alzheimer's, Christine Cleary feared she might one day forget things she holds dear, including her own late husband. Now Cleary believes memory is more about heart than mind."
  • "The Guts to Keep Going" (March 12, 2007) -- "Amy Lyles Wilson helped her newly widowed mother adjust to life alone, teaching her how to do things her father had always done. It inspired Wilson's belief in 'gutsy, wrinkled broads' who have the courage to carry on."

  • "A Way to Honor Life" (February 5, 2007) -- "Nurse Cortney Davis frequently encounters grief. For years, she sought to counter it with cheer and consolation, but now she believes grief is to be embraced as a way of honoring of the fragility of life."

  • "Utterly Humbled by Mystery" (December 18, 2006) -- "When he was young, Richard Rohr wanted firm answers -- not ambiguity. But after 30 years in the priesthood, Rohr now believes there is comfort, humility and closeness to God in accepting the mysteries of life."

If, after reading or hearing those inspiring viewpoints, you still are not suitably motivated to live longer, passionately, in the moment, then read the story that was displayed on NPR's website today right next to the "As I Grow Old" essay.

The Long View --"Hugh Hefner on a Life Less Ordinary" -- "A new reality show chronicles the lives of Hefner, 81, and his three blonde live-in girlfriends."
How did Hefner make the transition through decades of cultural changes when others couldn't? Case in point: a new reality show, The Girls Next Door chronicles the lives of Hefner's three blonde live-in girlfriends. The shows demographics may surprise some; viewers are 70 percent female, and most of them are younger women.
After searching the 25,000 available "This I Believe" essays indexed online here, I did not find one authored by Hugh Hefner. So, you'll have to consult a different source for his written personal philosophy.
* * *
“The big surprise for me is that age is just a number, . . . It's a number without meaning. A person who dies at 40 -- through cancer, a car accident, what have you -- how old is that person, really, at 38? He's near the end of his life, whether he knows it or not. And what about a person who dies at 100? How old is that person, really, at 78?"
-- Hugh Hefner, entrepreneur & publisher