Martin has spent a lifetime in the arts and letters. After brain surgery in 2013 he papered his recovery with 7 more titles about mortality, love, drink, the fatalism found in the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, and in 2019 a new script entitled Riding the 9:05. This is an absurdist play about the changes noted in this essay. This bluesy comic-tragedy work has been described as a Theater of the Absurd—with a Twilight Zone. It is available by email request: Kimeldorf@comcast.net
Chatting off-topic one day with one of my favorite editors, Deborah Levine,I talkedabout feeling like an outsider at age 7 in my own family. Perhaps she had not discussed her similar feelings before because she embraced the topic and told about similar feelings in her childhood. Deborah told her mom how she believed she belonged to gypsy parents who must have left her on the doorstep.Then without surprise or forethought she asked her mom, “Would you please return me to where I really belong?” Her mom was amused by her hyperactive daughter with the quick mind and tongue.
I then shared with Deborah that I felt I’d been left behind by aliens as part of an intergalactic experiment by my far-away family. This was not as far fetched as you might think when I explain how my father was a scientist working for the government in Radiation Biology. He had security clearances, and this was to explain why he was gone a lot to places he could not speak about upon return. was often on the road to places he could not tell us about.It was also the 1950s when the red-scare atmosphere filled the very air and our television programing the paranoia of the McCarthy era.
In the 20th century, corporations and state enterprises perfected a “free trade” sleight of hand for extracting resources and cheap labor globally. Today, as sources of “cheap labor” become less profitable, artificial intelligence (AI) is wielded as a tool for further exploiting American labor.
When automated manufacturing first showed up in the 60s, the “pundits” (then called eggheads) worried about automation shortening the workweek. They argued that the increase in leisure would destroy the American work ethic. Today, automation’s potential for delivering the paradise of a 20-hour workweek has been largely forgotten, even though productivity per worker has rocketed off the charts. Today most people feel over-worked, and leisurely lifestyles remain the province of the rich.
As we celebrate 2020 it is useful for (those old enough) to look back about 50 years and note the changes. There has been much promise and many problems across these many years… So many changes occurred in the blink of an eye, yet so little improvement endures, and we aren’t sure why.
The progressive values that began in the 1960s (e.g. increasing political awareness, economic liberty of women, civil rights and ecological awareness) grew to assume mainstream importance. Around 1970 the Mother Earth News and the Whole Earth Catalogue appeared, promoting the counter-culture values, the do-it-yourself life, and environmental concerns. In 2005 Apple founder Steve Jobs called the Whole Earth Catalogue the Google of his generation. Fifty years later, the Whole Earth Catalogue is archived online, available at no cost. Mother Earth News is still here, often found on grocery store magazine racks—today a slick almost-mainstream magazine. What follows is a wandering listing of changes begun back then.
What would it mean to unlock the mysteries of both the visible and invisible dark night skies? In Matthew Bothwell’s article Monsters in the Dark, the Cambridge astronomer eloquently and patiently explains the invisible monster galaxies uncovered by the Hubble Space Craft’s long-exposure images. Relying on infrared light exposures, the new imagery penetrates the cosmic dust barriers to reveal in his words: a “vibrant cosmic powerhouses in the distant Universe” engaged in active star-making.
Bothwell admits that we don’t know why these massive galaxies even exist. The spiritual-cosmological questions that follow could sound like these: “What forces bring them into existence?” “Why do they die?” and most profoundly, “Why, or what purpose do they serve?” This busy star-nursery also fosters questions about our own existence back here on Earth and to what degree are we alone in the universe.
Before going in for brain surgery in 2013, I feared that studying, researching and thinking too much about my condition would leave me bereft of hope. I dreaded being swept up with sadness or anxiety or both. I resolved to trust in all my doctors and in the destiny already laid out before me. To achieve that state of mind I returned to reciting the quatrains found in the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. As a result, I was able to enter Virginia Mason Hospital calm, a bit exhausted, and filled with acceptance.
After my father died my mother slipped into a chaotic state of dementia. Over time and after countless conversations we concluded she was very attached to her anger. It was if she was raising up her problems as her new children. She preferred her alternative view of the world and it would become her undoing.
Today the word Mortality is being examined in bold letters regarding for our species and in smaller plain print by individuals in this convergent moment. Scientists and religious fundamentalist have been busy writing an obituary for our species in upper case letters. As the Baby Boomers globally turn into Elder Boomers, they again challenge conventional routines and rituals. Likewise younger people put on the zombie costumes of the walking dead and extend the discussion of mortality across space and generations.