Strolling Amok

Pops goes on tour.

A Little Fresh Air

These young women are at St. Mary's College in Dallas, Texas in the year 1898.

These young women are at St. Mary’s College in Dallas, Texas in the year 1898. A change of clothing would make them look quite current, yet not have much impact on the humanity that’s pouring through this photograph. But let me be frank: all dolled up or not, that front row looks like Trouble on the hoof, no?

It’s kind of a natural thing to think ourselves superior to those who have gone before us. I have done so in my early years, and have since thought better of it. Much better. In our current culture, our arrogance often stems from a tendency to confuse knowledge with wisdom, while the two have very little linkage indeed. We think that our superiority is because of our superior technology, forgetting that its foundation is entirely based on the work that has gone on before us, as well as forgetting that technology does not define a man or a woman, while character does. We love to assume that people of the past would be awestruck at viewing us as we wave our smartphones, admiring our progress as a society in every aspect. I wonder if they would be more likely than us to recognize the trade-offs we’ve made along the way, the giving up on one thing to get another. And I wonder if they would understand our outlooks as poorly as we understand theirs.

A mother with her child in 1926. There's a universality pouring through this photo as well.

A mother with her child in 1926. There’s a universality pouring through this photo as well, don’t you think?

The goal of this post is also to dispel the universal assumption that historical photographic portraits are all stiffly posed with faces locked in a lifeless glare. It is certainly true that well prior to the turn of the last century, the purpose of a portrait was usually to convey that the subject had gravitas, and was a person of consequence. Smiles and grins were considered to make one look silly on such an important and expensive occasion, or like a practical joker instead of a person living a life of meaning and purpose. Today, a smile tends to evoke a very different response, as does the lack of one. But, as with the photo leading this post, one misses a lot when old photos are passed over because of assumptions.

Cantaloupes in Grapevine, Texas, 1934.

Cantaloupes in Grapevine, Texas, 1934.

The little girl above grew up to be a mother and grandmother. When I see this photo, besides the delight, I wonder if the lives we have built for ourselves today haven’t lost a lot in the transition from her time. We like to say that whatever time we’re looking at in the past was “a simpler time”, as if they had it easier then. You know, the Good Old Days. As you might guess, I don’t buy this wistful condescension. As memory serves and a little historical research reveals, you can pick nearly any point in time and find it immersed in a bath of changing circumstances, fallout, and stresses – all without the social safety nets that we take for granted today. I can’t recall any simpler times myself. There was always some challenge or turmoil going on. If there was greater simplicity, it hinged on the consequences of failure. The “modern problems” we like to think that we face, you know, the ones we’ve created for ourselves out of our “enlightenment”, have the same old causes as ever. But there’s no going back.  As the late humorist Will Rogers once said, “Letting the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier than putting it back.”

A Brownsville, Texas produce farmer in 1943. Photo by Arthur Rothstein.

A Brownsville, Texas produce farmer in 1943. Photo by Arthur Rothstein.

I guess what I’m saying is that when we look to the people of our past, we shouldn’t write them off wholesale because they had different worldviews and values than we do today. I have my own, but I’m also a believer in the claim that a person who cannot skillfully debate both sides of an issue does not really comprehend the issue. We don’t even care to find out why they believed as they did. We can’t be bothered, the result being that we merely grasp at justifications to support our emotional responses to issues. It’s easy to treat others with condescension when our own arrogance is based upon ignorance, something not in short supply even in our enlightened, modern times. We like to dismiss those of the past because of the alleged pressure to conform to societal standards, and yet while we’re doing that, we’re trying real hard to limit how we express our thoughts to meet the requirements of Political Correctness. Heck, many college students today claim to be traumatized by their exposure to viewpoints not matching their own, and actively seek to silence those nonconforming viewpoints by any means possible.

Nope, when we look into the past, we should look back with interest, seeking to learn, appreciate and exploit the common bonds that join us. We might be better off than if we propagandize merely to reinforce our own ill-considered agendas today. Asking “why?” is seldom a bad thing. I suppose that, as with anything else, it helps to emphasize what we have in common instead of obsessing over what divides us.
Addendum: I have not posted for awhile, as I made an encore appearance at the local heart center via the emergency room entrance. I’d come in thanks to increasing and now disastrous fatigue, while their interest (and billing opportunity) showed up on a Catscan as a potential clot swirling around one heart chamber like a sock in a front-loader Maytag washer. It could exit at any time. I was admitted and stayed five days before they got sick of my whining and whimpering over the frequent blood draws, and gave me the boot.

Pending final test results due in shortly, the moral seems to be that it is a mistake for me to treat the aftermath of my type of surgery as a form of physical training that should yield a steady progression of new levels of attainment that create the new minimum for the future. Big mistake, actually. It’s one of those things where the difference between attitude and reality quickly show their stark differences. Biofeedback, that signal that cautions that it’s probably a good time to stop or back off for now, has at least temporarily shorted out and does not work until the damage is as good as guaranteed. The end result mimics playing while hurt, which only makes things worse.

Me, I’ve always been mentally geared for the equivalent of endurance training, a kind of blend of touchy-feely and go-go-go. Push past the pain, and always push the boundaries to advance. This is my first exposure to something where the day’s baseline keeps changing markedly, and doing the usual can do about as much good as volunteering to get mugged in a dark alley. Oops. And, my mistake has probably cost me weeks of precious time, delaying my departure significantly. Fortunately, as I always claim to like learning new things, it is now my task to carefully get back up, look as happy as I can, and learn the fundamentals of this very different recovery style.

But I can’t complain too earnestly. If I had hit the road with that clot and/or my standard approach to recovering from injury, the chances are very good that, given the level and availability of competent, heart-specific medical help on the road, I could have fairly quickly wound up with a forced lifestyle change, to say the least. That’s something that a few of you readers know all too well. I think patience is one of those things you just want handed to you, rather than having to grow it on your own by trial and testing. It sure doesn’t come naturally!


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14 thoughts on “A Little Fresh Air

  1. I agree with your assessment of those who went before us. Now science is finding out that a lot of their silly ideas we pooh-poohed are actually correct.

    Sorry about the setback; glad it’s sorted. Recovery is so frustratingly a spiral when I want a straight line.

    • Good point, Jana, since we now seem to be prepped by the concept that we must wait for Science to validate anything first, before we can be authorized to believe in it. Until that point, we’re simply waiting for it to catch up.

  2. It was the best part of a year before I started feeling “normal” after my bypass, though I was up and around fairly quickly. What was missing was stamina. I’d go for a 3 or 4 or eventually 6 mile walk, come back, and fall asleep sitting in a chair. I still made the walk, most every day. But I sure got tired of being tired all the time.

    Now that I’m feeling “normal”, just me being me again, I still have to contend with the wild surmise that “me being me” was what got me into that mess in the first place. Anyhow, I’m sitting up here in the stands now. The sun is shining. Down there where I used to be, on the field, the game is going into extra innings. I intend to relax and enjoy the show. Is that what “patience” means?

    Okay, I’ll take one of those beers. But hold off on the hot dog.

    • Thanks, Bob! Reminds me that my surgeon, unasked, cautioned me early on that my recovery would take longer than a bypass normally requires. Naturally, I thought “uh oh”, but had no scale to measure what that actually meant for me. It’s as if he figured I’d be checking my progress by all my fellow wheezers replumbed with new pipes, and didn’t want me to get discouraged when I picked up that I was falling behind them. I think the goal of normalcy is so far out there that any difference is moot.

      I know what you mean by getting tired of feeling tired all the time. I was hitting just 1.5 miles total per day at five weeks out (and collapsing into naps to recover), and now I’m temporarily maxing at half that to try to prevent another medical adventure. But doing only token walking invites clots, so… I thought I’d be much further along by this time, but it’s a very individual thing and I do have some electrical issues mixed in that make it more interesting. In my case, I prefer to blame the luck of the draw in genes rather than myself of course, but it was greatly accelerated by high stress over decades. That was my choice, as you put it so aptly, just “me being me”. By the time I hit the road and unplugged the stressors, it was closing the barn door after the horse got out. But don’t worry – if I ever find out what patience really means in practice, I’ll let you know…but not any time soon, I suspect!

      • A mile and a half at 5 weeks was about what I was doing. At 3 or 4 months I was doing 3 miles. Just a little more every week. I hated the spirometer, made me dizzy. I sucked it up, though, about 4 times a day anyway, and gradually made improvement. At 3 months I quit that, because I was breathing deeply, right to the bottom of my lungs, while walking. You can feel the afterburners kicking in when that happens. Well, whatever afterburners are left at 69.

        Walking helps lots of stuff knit up. Your circulation, your back, your balance, your posture. Helps you sleep.

        It even helps you develop patience.

        • Good, Bob. At the moment, walking builds IMpatience, because I can’t yet go at a pace that is even mildly aerobic. Might as well be wearing my bunny slippers. But I see the surgeon tomorrow for a final and will pose some questions about how to properly tip in a little more throttle without going from “nap needed” to “damage & deterioration”. At least now I can cough and even sneeze w/o feeling like I’m coming apart. Step by step!

  3. sorry to hear about your setback, I can totally relate! My recovery was fine and careful for 3 months post-op, then came having to move into an unfinished house, dealing with supervising the workers and an attempt to return to normal work and summer camping. Oops, pneumonia and a major setback. Now I’m struggling to accomplish as minimal a build as I can that will give me a bed and some storage and curtains before the December launch date.

    I’m glad to hear that you made it to the ER and to competent help before something disastrous happened. That stuff is scary. They just don’t make it clear how easy you have to take it, do they? There are so many factors, like are you dealing with other health issues that could impede your recovery? And are you constitutionally a lump on the couch who needs a boost, or a pushing it type of person who needs to be reined in? I wish you the best on learning to get a feel for how easy you need to take it.

    Some of my favorite sci-fi reading and watching involves time travel. I often think about what it would be like to land somewhere back in time to see how things were back then in person. It would be a mixed experience, some things would be much better, like clean air and food (in some places), less overpopulation, seeing how people dressed in person instead of the way the costume designer did it… but then the lack of modern conveniences, health care, human rights… it all balances out, but it’s a fun thought experiment.

    • Three months? I had figured I was over the hump at a month, and then when I wound up in the room, they told me the most important thing I could do for myself was to take a full pull on a spirometer 10 times every hour I was awake. I thought that was over! Gave me the feeling that it needs to go on until way, way out there, which I’m still trying to wrap my head around. I mean, at what point do you NOT risk pneumonia? I’m sorry to hear of your difficulties, and share those contradictory needs to both get things done while taking it easy. Nope, they really don’t convey what taking it easy means in terms of recovery, nor what recovery will really be like.

      On paper, there’s nothing significant that should slow me up, other than the body conditioning from having spent a lifetime as a desk jockey. I’m perfectly happy vegetating on a couch forever, and my idea of a vacation is relaxation and idleness rather than scheduled activities and tours. Camping and the e-bike tend to undo that a bit, because you eventually get the urge to explore what’s out there, here, and over that way. Once out there, there can be occasional problems with knowing when to quit. It can be addictive.

      I’ve sometimes felt that I was born 50-70 years too late, but then again, that acute appendicitis might not have turned out so well then, as wouldn’t my most recent exploits. I suspect it originated from a Twilight Zone episode in which a greedy modern managed to go back to ~1910 to spearhead the invention of the self-starter early, and cash in. He got an education, fast. “Mixed experience” is a pretty good way to assess it. I’d be fascinated at watching the social impacts of various things firsthand, and getting the sense of “why” on some outlooks. A visit might be a lot better than a full-boogie restart, hey? I find the excellent period authenticity of productions like the Poirot Mysteries very satisfying, and the Chinatown (1974) film. I remember one vaguely recent Hollywood movie mixing a broadbrim and wide lapels 40’s gangster theme with a 1960 Chevy parked on the street alongside 40s & 50s cars(?). As I recall, I needed to be restrained at that point, and they had to resort to a Wild Kingdom-style tranquilizer rifle to bring me down.

  4. Linda Sand on said:

    I’m sorry about your setback but glad it was not worse.

    • Thank you, Linda. That reminds me of one of my favorite Murphy’s Laws related to product engineering, but applicable much more widely.
      “No situation is
      ever quite so bad,
      that it cannot get
      just a little worse.”

  5. Glad you are still around to post. I keep waiting for a second shoe to drop with my own surgery, or really even the first one, as so far I’ve had hiking trips that left me with more physical damage. Granted my issue was not nearly as extensive as yours was. I find out Tuesday if I’m really as recovered as I feel.

  6. Doug…Sorry about your setback, being of a similar deposition I can relate to your tendency to be impatient. Hope you continue to mend, and wishing you the best.

    • Thanks very much, David. I was mentally set for some type of recovery being required, but half and one year time frames are a bit more than I figured on! At least I’m in a position to be able to face that!

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