When you’re under thirty, contemplating senility is like waiting for death: It’s going around, but it’ill never happen to me.
Well I’m over thirty, physically at least, and this “never-happen-to-me” thing is changing direction. It’s waiting for me at home.
I’m flying back to LA. I just left my folks, whom I visited for ten days. Yesterday and today, Dad continued to ask, “You’re leaving already? You just got here.”
We all use that expression, “You just got here!” But in my father’s world, I DID just get here. Dad lives pretty much in the present with the memory of a guppy – about three seconds. (Okay, so fish really do remember longer than that.) But with my dad, holding a thought IS about three seconds, and he’ll repeat his question endlessly, looping it forever as I forever repeat the answer and the other four pieces of data needed to make a conclusion.
A conclusion? Closure on an issue? Yes, Dad connects dots. And then they evaporate to be assembled again thirty seconds later.
Sometimes I lose my patience.
After my repeating the identical story ten, fifteen times I feel like shouting into his face, “What part of Mom’s surgery can’t you lock in?! Why can’t Mom’s limping to feed you make an impression!? Even WITH your dwindling synapses!?”
You see, with Dad, some thoughts DO hold. Thoughts like:
- “How much did it cost?” “
- “Your shower’s too long. You’re using up the hot water!”
- “Did you return my hairdryer?”
- “Where are you going? Why do you need the car?”
All of those ideas revolve around loss or taking away. FEAR, he remembers.
I bought my folks a new HD flat screen this trip. GIFTS, he forgets.
And I’m thinking… beyond the possibility that I could end up like my dad, I’m thinking that his dread about loss cuts through his dementia. That part of his brain which guards and protects is the last part to disintegrate. And this condition pretty much mirrors all societies, and even individuals.
WE TAKE FOR GRANTED WHAT WE HAVE, YET FIGHT TO THE DEATH TO KEEP IT OURS.
This psychology goes by many names. Sometimes we call it war. Sometimes it’s stock market risk aversion. Sometimes it’s politics. Whatever we call it, our struggle for collection and control is archetypal and the behavioral mistakes are repeated into eternity.
Societies do not learn!
“Wrong,” you say? Really?
I dare anyone to look at the US congress and deny that those same issues keep circling our two chambers term after term, even after they become laws and amendments.
Most things never get resolved.
Does anyone have a clue when the Israel/Palestine conflict is going to end? How about the perpetual, word-wide confrontation between the HAVE’s and the HAVE-NOT’s? (Don’t get me started with religions.)
Seems to me it’s human nature to forget history; world history, personal history. Sure, some people build on past experiences and stop repeating mistakes. But that’s not the norm. Corruption hasn’t come to an end. Public and private love affairs continue to yank people down. Bad management of resources and money is still with us, even with tracking software.
Yep. The screw-ups keep recycling, and they’re not that much different than the ones before!
So where am I going with this?
Not sure. But in as much as I can’t stop the world from repeating destruction, I CAN work on myself. My father, and his mother, both fell into that hole of forever-now repetition. It can happen to me. Dementia is hiding in my house.
But even if I dodge it and get away, I still forget. We all forget past lessons.
- We forget when we lose our tempers with the ones we love.
- We forget when we take careless risks behind the wheel of our cars.
- We forget when we spend more than we have.
- We forget when we punish our children for things we hate in ourselves.
- We forget when we break the Golden Rule.
We forgot that we didn’t just get here!
We’ve learned stuff! Why didn’t it stick? Why haven’t we learned there are better ways to resolve disputes than aggression and intimidation? Why haven’t we come to the understanding that when it comes to the WORLD, it’s just US here!
Why can’t we learn this stuff?
I have an explanation.
Mistakes are supposed to happen. And so is the forgetting part.
The people who keep making mistakes are the examples and guides for the people who don’t.
Wow. I can hear your thoughts. “Mr. Podolsky, EVERYONE makes mistakes.”
True. But we don’t have to keep making the SAME mistakes. We should be learning from each other. And we do.
For instance, a tragic divorce can be an excellent learning experience, IF IT’S NOT YOURS.
Years ago, two of my best men friends had crash-and-burn marriages. I kept close through the pain and saw their broken dreams as they cried down onto my shoulders. Later, alone in bed, I said a little prayer promising myself never to make those same mistakes. So far I haven’t. Thank you Steve, Milton, Donna and Carol.
Human beings learn through comparing and contrasting.
And maybe it’s easier to see events happening rather than reading about them.
Political experts and advisors know their history. Like writers, these consultants refer to past strategies to guide their candidates, as we authors do when constructing our plots.
In both case, books are written, maneuvers are plotted and we reader/citizens make conclusions:
- Do I trust him enough to put him in charge?
- Do I believe this enough to keep reading?
And so the dance of drama continues from generation to generation, offering life’s up’s and down’s, black’s and white’s, yes’s and no’s; all variations of the same basic contrasting truths. No need to get mad or frustrated about this. It’s our learning process.
Now if only we could all remember that!
But if we did…
- if all conflicts stopped,
- if we all agreed about everything,
- if we all merged into one loving,“YES!”
- HOW BORING THIS PLANET WOULD BE!
So we don’t agree, ever, because that’s the Grand Plan. Confrontation sparks new ideas.
My father is still a demanding son-of-a-gun and can be a royal pain the butt. But he’s also in a constant state of discovery. Actually, rediscovery.
This means Dad still shows me lessons. He’s the closest thing to Zen I’ve going in my life, living in the NOW… as I start forgetting myself.