Thursday, December 19, 2013

Listen Here Young Man

I am already following my advice. Lie.

Never tell the truth. The truth will get you in trouble. Never, ever tell the truth. Only drunks and children tell the truth. At work, at home, in a court of law, anywhere, ever. The truth is a commodity. You never give that commodity out completely. You present it to the outside world as it benefits you. Present the truth. Never ever present it raw for the benefit of people. People cannot digest raw truth anymore. We are too civilized. Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore, Julian Assange. All the way back to Socrates who could not deal with lying to the Athenian jury and made himself drink the hemlock poison that killed him. You cannot tell the truth. Our communities do not teach us how to accept raw truth. When is the last time you heard a raw truth and thought that they are not crazy? Never tell the whole truth.

Whereas lying will get you, and your family promoted. Lying is a process of making truth palatable. All you have to do is look at successful people and how their story of ascent is littered with so many lies, deceit, and political holes. Such consistency indicates that this is not a failure but a rite of passage. You have to show that you are competent enough to make truth palatable. The list of liars is infinitely longer than that for those who shove raw truth at use. James Frey, Stephen Glass, Jayson Blair, Janet Cooke, Bill Clinton, Richard Nixon, Baron Manchhausen…The list seems infinite.

I must come clean after that list. I am not an old fart. I am just 54, and aging is my business. I write about it, I teach it, I research it and I am living it. So, before I too, become “past it” what advice do I have? And “past it” does not refer to being too old to think, or too old to verbalize and write my thoughts down. No. Because I could probably do that till my last day on earth. By “past it “ I mean giving a shit. Caring about other people’s livelihood, happiness and wellbeing. I am getting there. Every day I see the world through rose-colored barbs. People's consistent little selfish behaviors amount to a rejection of our social shared space. I am becoming more understanding that no one cares about what I have to say, and I am becoming less motivated to say it.

So Lie. Lie to everyone but not to yourself. Nobody loves you as much as you do. If you do not love yourself, no one will love you more. Congratulations. Build up the equity in your self worth. Learn about who you are, about the incredible capacity of your body and mind. And start loving yourself. Start now. Stop reading and thank your body and mind for being there for you when, in all honesty, your body and your mind should just give up. So far your body and mind have tried to comply to beliefs about what you should be doing. Things that you were impregnated with (MTV, Facebook, Twitter etc). Close all your accounts. Lets see who you really are. Naked. Stop that digital masturbation. Stop it. Listen to your body, listen your brain. Keep the narration in your head quiet. Can you hear me now?

Listen. There are two parts to listening. First listen to yourself. That incessant narration in the background? That is you. Do not fight it, it is you and it will be there until you die. And the last words you hear will be that narration saying “I told you so.” Accept it. It will always be there. But you do not react. Think of it as shitting. Yes. Unpleasant as it is, but you have to do it. You do not look at your produce and mull over the experience. You do it, produce, flush. Same with the narration. It is going to be there, so accept it, and flush it away by tuning it out. It will be there, but now, muted. You can always go to the bathroom and let it flow out of you. Come out and leave it behind (please flush.)

Listen. The more difficult part of listening is to listen to others. People communicate through words. They want to fuck you, help you, tell you about themselves, express their love, desire and faults, and fuck you some more. Learn to distinguish what they are trying to communicate. This is difficult. When you are young you think you are brilliant. You are not. You might become brilliant, but right now you are fresh meat.

Remember. Most people come with an agenda. Similar to what you think you are but are not. They are hurt, dysfunctional, abused, and hurt some more. Listen to their plea. It is not about you it is about them. Listen and be aware that you do not have to accept them. You can move away. "Yes, I am aware of what happened to you, I understand what you need. I do not want to change you. You are perfect the way you are. I do not need to be part of this. Goodbye." Move away. No drama, no lectures. You do not know any better to lecture, except that they are not for you. So do not lecture. Listen.
Lie, Listen, Learn.

You will die. Your passage is longer than you anticipate, but by the time you get to go, it will seem short. Talk to an older person. Ask them how it feels. They were your age and know—know—the question. Your brain is the best organ you have. It is better than any science, science fiction, porn, avatar, digital game, love. It is the mother of all creation. It created god. Your brain is a product of millennium of development. An X-box of the future, provided without instructions. Learn to use it. It will give you infinite pleasure. Infinite joy. Do not try and control it. Let it be, learn from it. Use any technique to learn.  Listen and learn to distinguish the nuances the subtleties. Like any class. You will always learn something even if it is that this is not for you. You will always learn something if you try to learn. Do something. Engage. Do not listen to your peers. They are in the same position as you. Learn from those that have survived. Learn from older adults. Learn from people who have been there. Lived it. Ask questions about what people have done, and not what they think. Look at outcomes. What have you done? Do not judge. Ask.

And lastly, be gentle.

You will live longer than you think you will. You will likely die in pain. Most will die in an institution. It seems like a long time from now, but think about when you left high school/college. How long ago was that? Time is moving faster the older you get. Remember your physics class. Yes it comes back. Everything comes back. Postmodernist physics. Time is relative. Well it is not longer in the classroom. It is in real life. The older you get the faster time goes by. You are still growing and developing. Your brain right now is mush. But think about this: you will never be younger than now, and your family and friends will never be younger than now. Love them. Whatever you feel, let it out. You have a short lease on life. Use it well. Be gentle on yourself. You are not perfect. Neither is everyone else. Don't hurt yourself, no drugs, protect yourself from head trauma, sleep as much as you can, enjoy the company of people, have intimate and loving sex with people you care for, eat quality not quantity, earn your food, put yourself in new situations everyday, do not do repetitive things, find an exercise you enjoy and do it as often as you can, be active, use your body and most important of all, be gentle with yourself. You will fail and fuck up. Move on.

Lie, Listen, Learn and Be Gentle.

By the time you get to be an old fart you might have some stories to tell. But by then will younger generations listen to you? Pass it on.

© USA Copyrighted 2013 Mario D. Garrett

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Wisdom of Older Adults : From Teacher to Master--Pedagogues to Hegemon.

Older people as teachers and mentors misses the true meaning of accumulated experience...wisdom.

Pedagogues and teachers in ancient Greek society were slaves–often foreigners and the ‘spoils of war’. Pedagogues were trusted members of rich households who accompanied the children of their ‘masters’ everywhere, including sitting beside them at school and helping them with their homework. These pedagogues were seen as ‘tenders’ of children (pais plus agögos, a ‘child-tender’). Prepubescent children were often put in their charge until late adolescence.

Basically a pedagogue is a child minder. And not just any child, but minders of the children of the rich. Friere’s (1972) notion of the ‘pedagogy of the oppressed’–the education of the privileged by the oppressed is an apt interpretation. Especially in line with policy makers low regard for teachers. Teachers are treated as lowly oppressed child minders for the rich.

But older adults teach not only children but adults. Malcolm Knowles (1970) was so convinced that adults learned differently to children that he created a new term–andragogy, as the art and science of helping adults learn–against pedagogy. But andragogy does not help the definition of wisdom of older adults.

Within ancient Greek society there was a strong distinction between the activities of pedagogues (paidagögus) and subject teachers (didáskalos). Didactic, the aim to instruct and teach morals or subject content. The Swedish researcher David Hamilton observes that United States usage of ‘pedagogy’ mirrors the mainland European use of ‘didactic’. The implicit meaning in the USA is that pedagogy is teaching and didactic is the method of teaching. But this does not define older adults as teachers.

Plato talks about pedagogues as ‘men who by age and experience are qualified to serve as both leaders (hëgemonas) and custodians (paidagögous)’ of children. Hegemony-derived from the Greek egemon, meaning “leader, ruler, often in the sense of a state other than his own” Although hegemony has been commonly used to indicate political predominance, where one ideology associated with one country, takes over the aspirations of the citizens of another country, little has been written on the hegemon, the individual that starts the idea rolling. A lot has been written in sociological literature on hegemony. The Italian political analysts, Gramsci comes to mind. But what about the individual who influences whole societies and the creation of new societies.  There is truly one such man and it is not whom you are thinking of.

Only a few fragments of Epicurus's 300 written works remain. But what has been salvaged has some pertinence to gerontologists. They are subversive and radical. For Epicurus (341 BC – 270 BC) the purpose of philosophy was to attain the happy, tranquil life, characterized by ataraxia—peace and freedom from fear—and aponia—the absence of pain—and by living a self-sufficient life surrounded by friends. He taught in "gardens", that pleasure and pain are the measures of what is good and evil; death is the end of both body and soul and should therefore not be feared; the gods do not reward or punish humans; the universe is infinite and eternal; and events in the world are ultimately based on the motions and interactions of atoms moving in empty space. Epicurus explicitly warned against overindulgence because it often leads to pain. He was against the ego, which is why he was not interested in politics and argued for people to "live in obscurity", "get through life without drawing attention to yourself".

But Epicurus influence was more than his followers, he influence the creation of new societies. He is a hegemon who influence the dominant hegemony of today, the United States. Thomas Jefferson who considered himself an Epicurean established that  "all men are created equal" and endowed with certain "inalienable rights," such as "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." His emphasis on minimizing harm and maximizing happiness in his formulation of the Ethic of Reciprocity "One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself" was later picked up most religious doctrine. Epicurus influenced the French Revolution, and other philosophers like John Locke, who wrote that people had a right to "life, liberty, and property." Even Karl Marx's doctoral thesis was on "The Difference Between the Democritean and Epicurean Philosophy of Nature." Epicurus influenced many other philosophers who themselves become hegemons in their own right. Friedrich Nietzsche cites affinities to Epicurus in a number of his works. Epicurus contribution was subversive. He unacknowledged that fear of death and punishment as the primary cause of anxiety among human beings, and anxiety in turn as the source of extreme and irrational desires.

In our modern world where we the fear of terrorist as our daily fodder, where we are told to aspire to be the 1% and yet behave as though we are gangsters--tattoos and guns--and a supreme court that is unwilling to discuss our right for assistance at end-of-life--to end our fear of pain at the end of life--the message that Epicurus has is radical. He is a true hegemon.

Older adults wisdom is about marching to an internal drum beat, without ego, without fear. This is the wisdom we can impart. In our small manageable ways we are hegemons in our role. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Turn on, tune in, drop out

I was too young to hear Timothy Leary's rallying call  "Turn on, tune in, drop out." I was born at the tail end of the baby boom, and my experience of the hippy period was bell bottoms and a t-shirt with the two finger peace sign imposed on an American Flag. I was too tall for platform shoes.But I had the afro hair.

Like most of my cohort I envied hippies. Who wouldn't?  Sex drugs and rock & roll. So it is with some feeling of loss when I see that some of those who turned on, tuned in, and dropped out are now looking for another meaning to their life while shopping for cheap incontinence pads at Walmart.

As with most of the tail-end baby boomers, I ignored that period. Oh I  loved the music, but not much else. Could never get into the literature of the time; the Jack Kerouac, Robert A. Heinlein, Ken Kesey, Tom Wolfe, Marvin Harris, Truman Capote. Too anarchic and unstructured. But on the other hand I loved the storytelling of John Updike, Harper Lee, Anthony Burgess, Ken Kesey, Nikolas Schreck, Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez, Frank Herbert,  Sylvia Plath, and Kurt Vonnegut (Vonnegut mainly because he was American, I loved everything American.) I loved reading Hermann Hesse, a German author who did much of his writing in the 1920s but was read in the 60s.

So wind forward half a century and that mantra still haunts me."Turn on, tune in, drop out" Until this year. I never understood the existential meaning of that phrase. Now with the National Security Agency not only spying on everything we do both in the privacy of our emails, phone calls and letters, but also everything online, and then sharing this information with other alien countries, I have a strong feeling that we need to re-energize the mantra again. Except this time lets make it digital "Turn on, tune in, drop out." Turn on, make sure that you know what is happening, tune into the movement with like minded individuals, and drop out of Facebook, Twitter. LinkedIn and blogger....


I am in a boutique hotel on the mediterranean coast in Southern Turkey in the old Walled City of Antalya. Alone in the courtyard of the hotel. Three in the morning, I cannot sleep. The only place I can get internet. The courtyard is within an old building in the old city. Narrow paved windy roads fenced in by exclusive hotels developed from old rich properties. The night revelry still lingering outside (which is why I am awake.) But I am in a quiet bubble inside this cocoon. Surrounding me are feral cats. They own the city and they are everywhere. Well-fed it seems. Sometimes meeoing, but mostly quiet and observant. We are alike in many respects. Well-fed definitely her in Turkey.
Two blazoned tanned older men in their underwear. Their stomach hanging proud come into the courtyard smoking and talking German. I leave to the cleaner air of my room and losing my internet.

Back in my room, I read residue of my opened web pages. There are new reports that show that sunscreen helps the skin look younger. I want my skin to look its age. I want my smile lines to be permanent fixture. I want to be reminded of all the happy times I have had on this earth before I die. A testament to the fact that I lived my life, risked everything and not given a damn about the consequences. That my ego need not know whether I won or lost, but that I tried my damnest. A testament that my lease on life was well used. Perhaps that is the point. Perhaps it is hiding a life not lived well that others are trying to hide. I smile more creases on my face and realize that I have a long day ahead of me tomorrow. I am renting a car for the first time in Turkey and I will drive to Termossos. I know I will create some good wrinkles tomorrow. I already started as I smirk falling asleep.

Aging Hands

Returning home on the plane after three months away I sit in the cramped space looking at my hands. I am comfortable with my hands. They are the only part of my body that I see all the time. I have watched them age. I have watched them write, type, touch, hold, caress, hit and work. They are my view of myself. As I age so do they. Started getting liver spots, more wrinkles, less hair, less muscle tone. And I have no issue with this, I like how my hands look. I am comfortable with my hands. Unlike watching my face in the mirror, which is always a reflection, my hands are in front of me. On the other hand, I have difficulty accepting my face. My face is not my image of who I am.

Sometime I accept my face, but at other times I feel an uneasiness. I would like to know how people who have had facial reconstructive surgery deal with their new look. It feels that my face goes through a reconstruction every time I stop looking at it. There is a separation between me and my face.  A time lapse of memory. As though the person looking back at me is exactly that, looking back at me.

But with  my hands, the relationship is much more direct. I have direct contact. It is how I see myself as I function in the world. It is how I see myself interacting, how I manipulate and move objects around me. I am always looking at my hands, directing them, observing them. My hands are my physical extension that I can see.They provide a carpet that open up inviting me to the world. Whatever I am doing my hands are there as an extension that I see. And as I age this very visual part of me is also visibly changing. They have more character. I am very comfortable with my hands and how they are growing to be what I see everyday. I am happy to see my hands age and reflect what they have been through. I only wish that I can do the same with my face.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Crying for Humanity

I cried yesterday. I was listening to a news report driving up to Home Depot to buy some yellow jacket repellant spray. How mundane a task can you get to end up crying my eyes out. A grown man, alone, in a Home Depot car park.

I was finishing off a news story on the radio. The news was about a young man armed with an assault rifle--had to be an AK-47-you have to hate them--who goes into an elementary school near Atlanta threatening staff and students. The receptionists at the school acted as a go-between, relaying demands between the young man and the police. This was the news report on National Public Radio. And I was listening to this development. The receptionist communicated with the young men and then relayed his demands to the police (all of this was taped). Throughout this process, the young man started to self-disclose to the receptionist. At one point he reported that he has not taken his medications and he feels suicidal. And this is when I parked in the car park at HomeDepot and sat listening.

The receptionist at the school, acting as the de facto mediator was obviously a Black woman by her accent and demeanor. Upon hearing this admission of weakness that he was suicidal, she tells the (obviously) White man “That's OK…We all feel like that. Look at me. When my husband left me I felt like killing myself. Now look at me.” Home Depot never looked so far away.

This was Antoinette Tuff. The humanity of that simple admission of great weakness. The young man “felt” that humanity. This was not a strategy, a protocol, a gambit. This was a “connection”. A love episode. That connection must have lessened his aloneness in the world and he surrendered to the police. I cried because the woman had the courage to see him as a human being. Not a fucked-up-White-privileged-man-with-a-fucking-gun-that-we-should-ban. Which was my position listening as a passive recipient of the news. It made me think about how we have lost that courage to see people as human beings rather than as consumers, liability, collateral, entitled, responsibilities, privileged, angry, fucked-up. If we see the humanity in people how much the world would change. And that is why I cried.

I cried for the courage that we have lost. As a culture, as a people, as individuals, we are diminished and when eruptions of such courage are shown by individuals, as Antoinette Tuff did, I feel the loss. This is how we should be but we have become so categorical. So judgmental and we alienate everyone from us. We separate ourselves to such an extent that we stop being human. We become elements in a machine. Antoinette Tuff-— perhaps because she has lost everything and reached into that existential loneliness—has shown what it takes to reclaim that unique attribute of humans. You have to lose everything to be human again.

 © USA Copyrighted 2013 Mario D. Garrett

Friday, August 2, 2013

Taksim II

Taksim II, a set on Flickr.
Going for drinks at the Marmaras Pesa Hotel to take photos of the sunset over beautiful Istanbul and on the way, walking down Istiklal avenue I came across four squadrons of police, one of which was all women!! I had to go behind and then infront of the police to get to my hotel. The police are young neophytes (with machine guns, pistols, bullet proof suits, riot gear and lots of heavy machinery for backup). A show of strength that did not even raise an eyebrow from the local revelers. Viva Taksim!

Saturday, July 27, 2013


Istenye, a set on Flickr.
My neighborhood (north this time.) There is a very steep hill that I walk down to get to the board walk. Steep and short. It feels like a gateway, a portal from Etiler to Bebek. Once on the boardwalk it is a piece of heaven. The fresh breeze off the clear fast flowing Bosphorus brushes you cool while you parade the wide pedestrian walkway. Enjoying the cacophony of water activity from the big tourist boats and vessels, to the frenzy of fisherman with their fibre glass rods  constantly reeling in their catch of small sardines. And in between are the swimmers who mostly sunbath and are exclusively men. A couple of miles up the road, where the pavement stops, is the demarcation between Bebek and Istenye. There are a group of tanned kids jostling in the water. Attentively supervised by grandfathers.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


Bebek, a set on Flickr.

My neighborhood, Bebek between the two Bosphorus bridges on the European side.