The Long View

Being in the middle of any progressive line is an interesting point of view.  In school having a last name that started with a middle of the alphabet letter always seemed to get one in the middle of the line.  Not the first, not the last.  For example, one could watch the mistakes of others and learn, or envy those who got to choose an object or activity first.  With regard to age, being in the middle brings many new shocks- invisibility in some arenas, a sense of purpose in others.  What I see others experiencing ahead of me is the long view.  It is the distance time and age gives most people, the ability to look back and around oneself and see the world with a complexly measured eye.  Certainly there must be humor with this perspective.  There also must be some regret, some pain, and some relief. Also an understanding of humanity, and how little things really do change.  People are still motivated by the same things, still yearn for the same things, still feel pain, and the world seems to make the same mistakes over and over, just with a veneer of new paint.  Maybe that is part of what lets people let go slowly.  I don’t want to live in fear or apprehension, like so many older people do.  But I can see how the long view allows those of advanced age to shake their heads and know what they are leaving is hopefully in some small measure momentarily better for their having been there, still can offer pleasures, and will go on as it will after they are gone.  The feeling of powerlessness many of us in the middle face, the knowledge that we are so small, have so little real time, and can affect the world for the most part in such small ways- that sensation that haunts us in the middle has, by the time we are toward the end, become something else.  At least I hope so.

The West (and the rest of the world is starting to adopt this bad habit) has a way of disregarding older people, of finding them taxing, a burden.  Instead of knowing age for what it is, instead of having any interest in it (other than a crass, commercial investment in the money to be made from the aged in health issues and other arenas), we culturally accept that age is something to be avoided, and remain ignorant about.  I think this is to our detriment in a very big set of ways.  Primarily, this attitude robs us of the comfort of the long view, of seeing it coming and learning from those who are plumbing it’s depths.

For now, I am in the middle.  But I see so many others entering into the long view, some accepting it with grace, some fighting it with joyful humor, some with fear and pain.  There is much to be learned from all of them if we would only bother to ask, to watch, to see, to consider.


Roger Ebert died today. He was a journalist, a midwesterner, a U of I alum, and a gracious human being when I met him. I didn’t always agree with his reviews, but I am so very grateful that he lived, and for all his work. He joins Studs, Nels, Mike, and other big souls of Chicago I have read, listened to, met and deeply appreciated over the years. You’ll be sorely missed R.E.