AT FIFTYI am astounded, perplexed, overwhelmed, delighted and dismayed by the many physiological, emotional, cognitive and social changes that are taking place within me in so short a period of time.
Not since I married and became a mother to my first child have I undergone such extreme and rapid changes.
But my reaction to them is much more like my reactions were to the changes I was experiencing when I was an adolescent. With some of the changes, I find myself asking: Is this normal? When I was an adolescent the changes I didn't understand made me wonder if I was deformed. Now they make me wonder if some pathology is present. Yet, now, as then, it is all so very wonderful. I've embarked on a journey. I have arrived at maturity. From here the path leads to the glory of a ripe and beautiful old age.
True to my INTJ personality, there are few people I feel comfortable enough asking directly about all this. I prefer to do research. So, I scoured the net for information about women in the 50-60 year age range.
I found a good deal of sites about the pros and cons of hormone replacement therapy (that is out of the question for me).
I found a number of very good sites relating to nutrition appropriate at this time.
I found some sites discussing plastic surgery (Yikes! Heaven forfend!).
A few sites speak about dating once again at age 50+. A goodly percentage of women at this age find themselves back on the dating circuit and they are trying to cope with that. Hey; if I wanted to "cope" with that, I'd just revert to my Polyamorous ways, which somehow seems far less exciting as I've moved away from the time during which sex was largely a showcase for the body beautiful and death-defying acrobatics.
One site that I found is a compendium of the personal reports of women in the 50 to 60 year old bracket about their experiencing "aging". This was the most disappointing of all.
I'll offer some excerpts here:
"Sarah is 55, married, a marketing executive and thinking about making a change in her career. She does not fear her own aging process and tries each day to count her blessings. But in the next breath she says: “I just hate my sagging buttocks, and that pants are defining me at this age. No stretch pants for me.”
God! Is this what a woman comes away from 55 years of life experience with - defining herself by how her butt looks in pants?!
"Ruth is dreading turning 51 on her next birthday. Her biggest worry is becoming “invisible” to her coworkers. As a professional stockbroker, her job requires her to look good, perform well and compete with other money managers rising through the ranks, both male and female, many of whom are much younger than she...Most of the time, though, she keeps busy working and draws tremendous satisfaction from being able to bring home plenty of the green stuff."
I suppose if you can't be much of anything else, having money can be a comfort – and a distraction. But, having money is no excuse for being a nothing otherwise. Finding comfort in one's income is a cop-out.
"Ruth wishes she didn’t feel invisible. “In my 30s, I could turn heads with no trouble. I enjoyed seeing those necks twist.” It’s been a long time since that happened though, and she’s beginning to let that go."
I believe, and it is my experience, that an *interesting*-looking woman continues to turn heads, perhaps not for her youthful beauty, but because she radiates something (of course having a meter of silver hair and dressing in caftans in a country that has solidly adopted Western dress, as I do, may help in this).
Jane's way of dealing with aging involves embracing narcissism. Behind her are the days of living for others. Jane is one of those women who never got the balance between being for others and being oneself quite right.
None of these women can serve as a fitting role model for me, neither do I relate to any of them profoundly.
I'd be a liar if I said that some of those concerns don't cross my mind. They do, but fleetingly. Those are not my main concerns.
None of the sites I've searched for, read and reread over the last few days gave me the profound answers I seek.
The Talmud says: "...an old woman is a treasure."
*That* is what I am looking for: how to grow into being a treasure.
In a culture that does not revere the aged; that does not use the term "elder" with deep-abiding respect; in fact, one of the commonest uses of the term 'elder' is in the phrase 'elder abuse', which is all too common; in a culture in which the word 'aging' is derogatory; in which the wisdom of elders is not sought out, indeed is not so much as acknowledged, or, for that matter, cultivated and in which the elders are shunted aside, even institutionalized; it is no wonder, but so terribly, abysmally sad, that the advice offered to women over the age of 50 is to have plastic surgery, take synthetic drugs that can cause terminal illnesses and try, desperately, to look and act young for as long as possible.
The elders, for their part, are guilty too: How can youth respect a mature woman whose foremost concern is her sagging butt and who grieves that she can no longer wear stretch pants?
The only guides I seem to have are the teachings, memories and the Spirit that my Grandmother and her Sisters left entrusted within me. They were true treasures and my Grand-Aunt Bea, now well over 90 years old remains so.
Doreen Ellen Bell-Dotan, Tzfat, IsraelDoreenDotan@gmail.com
IT USED TO BE: COVER YOUR ASS
Now it's: Cover your face.
"New airport agents check for danger in fliers' facial expressions By Kaitlin Dirrig McClatchy Newspapers WASHINGTON — Next time you go to the airport, there may be more eyes on you than you notice. Specially trained security personnel are watching body language and facial cues of passengers for signs of bad intentions. The watcher could be the attendant who hands you the tray for your laptop or the one standing behind the ticket-checker. Or the one next to the curbside baggage attendant. They're called Behavior Detection Officers, and they're part of several recent security upgrades, Transportation Security Administrator Kip Hawley told an aviation industry group in Washington last month. He described them as "a wonderful tool to be able to identify and do risk management prior to somebody coming into the airport or approaching the crowded checkpoint." The officers are working in more than a dozen airports already, according to Paul Ekman, a former professor at the University of California at San Francisco who has advised Hawley's agency on the program. Amy Kudwa, a TSA public affairs specialist, said the agency hopes to have 500 behavior detection officers in place by the end of 2008. Kudwa described the effort, which began as a pilot program in 2006, as "very successful" at identifying suspicious airline passengers. She said it had netted drug carriers, illegal immigrants and terrorism suspects. She wouldn't say more. At the heart of the new screening system is a theory that when people try to conceal their emotions, they reveal their feelings in flashes that Ekman, a pioneer in the field, calls "micro-expressions." Fear and disgust are the key ones, he said, because they're associated with deception. Behavior detection officers work in pairs. Typically, one officer sizes up passengers openly while the other seems to be performing a routine security duty. A passenger who arouses suspicion, whether by micro-expressions, social interaction or body language gets subtle but more serious scrutiny. A behavior specialist may decide to move in to help the suspicious passenger recover belongings that have passed through the baggage X-ray. Or he may ask where the traveler's going. If more alarms go off, officers will "refer" the person to law enforcement officials for further questioning. The strategy is based on a time-tested and successful Israeli model, but in the United States, the scrutiny is much less invasive, Ekman said. American officers receive 16 hours of training — far less than their Israeli counterparts_ because U.S. officials want to be less intrusive. The use of "micro-expressions" to identify hidden emotions began nearly 30 years ago when Ekman and colleague Maureen O'Sullivan began studying videotapes of people telling lies. When they slowed down the videotapes, they noticed distinct facial movements and began to catalogue them. They were flickers of expression that lasted no more than a fraction of a second. The Department of Homeland Security hopes to dramatically enhance such security practices. Jay M. Cohen, undersecretary of Homeland Security for Science and Technology, said in May that he wants to automate passenger screening by using videocams and computers to measure and analyze heart rate, respiration, body temperature and verbal responses as well as facial micro-expressions. Homeland Security is seeking proposals from scientists to develop such technology. The deadline for submissions is Aug. 31. The system also would be used for port security, special-event screening and other security screening tasks. It faces high hurdles, however. Different cultures express themselves differently. Expressions and body language are easy to misread, and no one's catalogued them all. Ekman notes that each culture has its own specific body language, but that little has been done to study each individually in order to incorporate them in a surveillance program. In addition, automation won't be easy, especially for the multiple variables a computer needs to size up people. Ekman thinks people can do it better. "And it's going to be hard to get machines that are as accurate as trained human beings," Ekman said. Finally, the extensive data-gathering of passengers' personal information will raise civil-liberties concerns. "If you discover that someone is at risk for heart disease, what happens to that information?" Ekman asked. "How can we be certain that it's not sold to third parties?" Whether mass-automated security screening will ever be effective is unclear. In Cohen's PowerPoint slide accompanying his aviation industry presentation was this slogan: "Every truly great accomplishment is at first impossible."
This is pseudo-science. Determining people's intentions based on "micro-expressions" is no different, or scientific, than phrenology. It serves the self-same nefarious intentions. Unscientific as phrenology as a "method" of determining people's character was, at least the shape of one's cranium does not change appreciably enough to be noticed by the human eye. Any slight fluctuations in shape that may be due to affective states couldn't be taken into account. Our facial expressions and body language do change appreciably - especially when we are self-conscious or stressed. If people feel that they are being surveilled for potentially suspicious behavior, they are going to start to act differently and may, wholly inadvertinently, send out one of those bogus "micro signals" that they are someone with a guilty conscience. America is a dangerous place. It was already a dangerous place when I left near the beginning of the Reagan administration. Things have gone from bad to worse, far worse, in the intervening generation. I'll express myself plainly. You are being forewarned of future events, terrible events. You see from day to day that US society becomes increasingly unfit for human habitation. You see your rights not being whittled away, not being chipped away - but being cast away in blocks, at a fast and furious pace. You know that the President of the USA is the grandson of the man who bankrolled Xyclon B gas and the erection of death camps in partnership with I.G. Farben. You know that on October 20, 1942, under authority of the Trading with the Enemy Act, the U.S. Congress seized Prescott Sheldon Bush's holdings and liquidated them after the war. The seizure was confirmed by Vesting Order No. 248 in the U.S. Office of the Alien Property Custodian and signed by U.S. Alien Property Custodian Leo T. Crowley. You can find it in the Library of Congress if any doubts linger in your mind that this may be an urban legend. Also check the texts of Vesting Orders No. 126, 261 and 259, also signed by Crowley. They demonstrate that Prescott Sheldon Bush, et.al., had interests in Silesian-American Corporation, which profited from slave labor at Auschwitz. While it is most certainly true that the sons, and in this case grandsons as well, are not responsible for the acts of their fathers (and grandfathers) *so long as they do not walk in those same footsteps and foreswear any identification with them*, their guilt is compounded if they do follow in their forebears' footsteps. The flouting of rights held dear in the US since her birth on the part of GWB would indicate that he has been inculcated with the execrable tradition of that branch of the Bush family. As a Jew, whose People refused to see the writing on the wall because they believed in modernity and that civilization would out because it was so entrenched that it could not betray them; I tell with with utmost certainty - you are being forewarned of dark and terrible days to come, and not in the distant future. The wise among you will get out while the getting's still good - or at least permissible.
Doreen Ellen Bell-Dotan, Tzfat, Israel
PRINCE PETER KROPOTKIN
He was not only born into the royal family of Czarist Russia, he was a prince among men.
Every time I encounter his life's dedication and work, I am overcome with admiration and awe of him anew. Though I have tried time and time again to pour out the admiration I feel for him and others like him, "if all the seas were ink and all the pine trees quills", still there would not be resource enough to praise them sufficiently.
He was a scion of one of the most respected lines in the Russian aristocracy. His family was directly related to Rurik.
He was trained in the Corps of Royal Pages and was offered a military career in an elite corps in the military.
But his scientific proclivity would lead him elsewhere. He became a geographer and insisted upon studying the geography of Siberia. It was there, in the unspeakable cold and harshness of Siberia, that he would develop his theory of Mutual Aid as the basis of survival and he argued his position forcefully against that of Darwin.
He developed a new theory about the structure of the Siberian mountains. His new findings garnered international acclaim.
The Russian Geographic Society offered him a position as its General Secretary.
Torn between the opportunity set before him and that which was in his heart from his early youth he wrote:
"Science is an excellent thing. I knew its joys and valued them...
But what right had I to these highest joys, when all around me was nothing but misery...when whatsoever I should spend to enable me to live in that world of higher emotions must need be taken from the very mouths of those who grew the wheat and had not bread enough for their children?...
Knowledge is an immense power. Man must know...What if that knowledge - should become the possession of all? Would not science itself progress in leaps, and cause mankind to make strides in production, invention, and social creation, of which we are hardly in a condition now to measure the speed? The masses want to know: they are willing to learn: they can learn...only give it to them, only give them the means of getting leisure. This is the direction in which, and these are the kind of people for whom I must work...So I sent my negative reply to the Geographical Society." – MEMOIRS OF A REVOLUTIONARY (New York: Dover Publications 1971) pp. 239-41
He went on to become a member of the revolutionary Anarchist underground in Russia, where he was jailed for his efforts. He escaped from prison in Russia after two years' internment and fled to Switzerland. In France he was interned once again for another two-year stint. Finally, after having been very active in the underground for years, he arrived in England.
He spent his mature years in England where he dedicated his life to research. He continued his studies of geography. He studied zoology, sociology, economics and history as well. The conclusions that he came to as a result of those studies culminated in the publication of two masterpieces in addition to his MUTUAL AID - A Factor of Evolution, those works being THE CONQUEST OF BREAD and FIELDS, FACTORIES AND WORKSHOPS.
He explains his purpose in carrying out that research and in writing FIELDS, FACTORIES AND WORKSHOPS thus:
"Most socialists had hitherto said that in our present civilized societies we actually produce much more than is necessary for guaranteeing full well-being to all; that it was only the distribution which was defective; I thought, on the contrary, that under the present conditions of private ownership production itself had taken a wrong turn, and was entirely inadequate even as regards the very necessaries of life. None of these necessaries are produced in greater quantities than would be required to secure well-being for all.
But in all civilized countries the production, both agricultural and industrial, ought to and easily might be immensely increased, so as to secure a reign of plenty for all. This brought me to consider the possibilities of modern agriculture, as well as those of an education which would give to everyone the possibility of carrying on at the same time both enjoyable manual and brain work. I developed these ideas in a series of articles in the "Nineteenth Century" (a periodical in his time, my parentheses) which are now published as a book under the title FIELDS, FACTORIES AND WORKSHOPS." ibid. pp. 447-48
Kropotkin was invited to return to Russia after the revolution of 1917. He was afforded respect there, but was deeply pained by the treatment he saw the Anarchists receiving at the hands of the Communist Party. After his death in 1921, the same year that Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman fled Russia after witnessing the treatment of Nestor Makno and other Anarchists, no holds barred persecution of the Anarchists would be conducted by the Russians.
I come from two great traditions of learning selflessly, only for the sake of betterment of humanity - that of Judaism and that of Anarchism. All of my role models are people who devoted themselves to amassing knowledge not for the sake of vainglory and not for the sake of personal power, but in order to put that knowledge at the disposal of Humankind for our common welfare.
My religion enjoins everyone to learn insofar as the person is able to. Kropotkin too speaks of the ability of all to learn and the right of everyone to access as much knowledge as they can. I too am a staunch believer in the right and the ability of everyone to access knowledge and believe that this will advance the cumulative body of knowledge to a now unimaginable extent. I bristle at every expression of elitism and exclusivity when it comes to knowledge.
A book has been running around in my mind for a long while. Like many who were persecuted and died as martyrs for their religious beliefs, so many Anarchists were persecuted and died horrible deaths for their beliefs. Though the latter group consists mainly of people who considered, and consider, themselves atheists; they are remarkably like the greatest religious personalities that the world's religions have produced. The thesis of my book will be the demonstration of the fact that the Anarchists are the true inheritors, and continuation, of the Prophetic tradition. Do they not, like the Prophets, continue to hope in a future of common peace, prosperity and welfare?
It is because I so dearly love and admire the people who were, and are, scholars for the sake of humankind, who put their genius at the service of humankind without thought to themselves and because I am so very painfully aware of their sacrifice for me, for a world of people they never knew, that I find selfish, frivolous, look at me! amassing of factoids so very revolting.
Isn't the story of Kropotkin's early life and the compassion he exhibited from so young an age for the poor and disenfranchised remarkably reminiscent of the account of the early life of Siddhartha?
And he was not alone. Bakunin too was of noble birth, as was Tolstoi.
More remarkable than Siddhartha, they, most Kropotkin and Bakunin, did not go off in search of "enlightenment" or self-realization.
These men left palaces to live among the people they loved. Everything they did, all that they were, was for others. Nothing daunted them - not rejection by their families and the nobility, not the forfeiture of promising futures, not imprisonment, not exile in Siberia and in foreign countries, not ill health. They fought on till they breathed their last expecting nothing in return for what they did, nothing at all but the betterment of the lot of humankind.
That's as great as it gets in my book.
Doreen Ellen Bell-Dotan, Tzfat, Israel