The Joy of Senility

The Joy of Senility

I am dealing with old age because it is smacking me in the face like a wet dishrag.  But I have choices:  I can ignore it, pretend it has not arrived, or I can get better acquainted with it, like becoming intimate with some repulsive trespasser who has moved into the neighborhood and now is getting overly friendly.

Still, I find old age fascinating.  Where I was totally surefooted at 79 plus 364 days, the next day, on my 80th birthday, people began helping me down the steps and warning me of obvious dangers.   They started to regularly inspect my shirtfront to make sure I wasn’t drooling my food, and on occasion when they found the spots they seemed elated – as if they saved the old man from terminal embarrassment.  The year before, the droppings were merely the tracks of a sloppy man whose habits they had silently endured all those years like bird spatters on the window.

And I provide people with advantages they never had before I became senile.  My memory has never been good.  Like a tiny closet in which to store all of one’s old clothes.  Now those around me can, with solid assurance, insist they told me something that they, themselves forgot to tell me.  “You know how your memory is,” they say with raised eyebrows and a sort of patient solicitness.

Another thing:  they expect wisdom where none exists.  They demand it.  The only reason they can respect an old person is because he is supposed to be wise.  He is no longer attractive physically.  He can no longer perform all those physical things that were once his duties.   He can now be tolerated only if he is wise.  But Wisdom — why have you forsaken me?

I feel harassed by time.  There is only so much of it.  I don’t want to waste it, yet I have no sure measure by which to properly make my decisions.  I think, well, I could be dead in the morning, so I better eat the ice cream with that hot apple pie tonight.  Hate to be on my deathbed wishing I had and all they give me is weak chicken broth.

I need to attend to certain chores I must attend to before I die.  I have put them off all these years, like cleaning out the drawers of all the junk I have accumulated – thoughtless to leave such a mess for others to deal with.  I can hear them now:  God, he was a sloppy old bastard.  You’d think he could have gotten rid of this stuff and not left it for us to haul off.

And there’s my failure to gather that which needs to be put in places where my family can find them, things I have written, poems, clever letters, and pretended insights, and I also need to discard things I wish I hadn’t written – you know – just cleaning things up a bit like you do for strangers who read you – why not for the family?  But is that the way one should be spending one’s priceless last days?

No, the odds for an unexpected death in the next day or two, next week, even next year are not staggering.  I will probably live a while yet.  I have a lot of things to do – like writing another memoir about cases thought to be important.  Or making the perfect photograph.  Truth is, in a decade or less those cases will be forgotten and new important cases will appear along with new heroes who will be soon forgotten as well, which brings back the vision of hot apple pie and ice cream that should be approached and attacked and destroyed, bite at a time — the only justifiable warfare I know.  Hot fudge sundaes will also do.

I look back on a long life.  Thankfully I have forgotten much of it.  Sometimes fleeting bits and pieces slip into consciousness just as I am going to sleep or waking up.  I made a lot of mistakes, grew from them, hurt others in the making, tried to rectify my wrongs with service to still others, and, in the end, fell vastly short of my potential.  But I had just as well be satisfied with what my whole life looks like, as altered to fit my comfort level.  Had I been a better man, a more generous person, a more productive human being, a better father and husband, well, I couldn’t have kept abreast of that.  One needs a little sin in one’s life to understand virtue.

What would I do if somehow I were able to come back?  I think I would become a bank robber, a poet and a painter.  Bank robbing is the ultimate virtue.  Banks rob the poor and the powerless, throw old ladies out of their homes in winter and leave endless hordes of innocent children homeless.  Bankers are the elite of the criminal element in this country.  They are usurious and heartless, empty-souled and play golf.  And they measure all worth in money.

A good bank robber who could rob back for the poor would be a major saint – except that the banks also own the churches who bestow sainthood.  I should call the new order of bank robbers the Brotherhood (and Sisterhood – we will need a good female accomplice to drive the getaway car) of the Best of the Worst Bank Robbers, or B&SBWBR for short.  Such a saint would live forever because infinite joy is an infinite extender of life.

Now to quote the most important of my role models, Sitting Bull, who, after he laid an invaluable hunk of wisdom on the tribe mumbled:  “I have spoken.”

On Jumping without a Parachute

I haven’t posted for a long time.  Fervor and the repair of self are selfish demons that demand nourishment.  In short I have had nothing to say, or if I had something to say I lacked the will to say it.

In my 81st year I am experiencing a passage, one at the opposite end of birth.  Although I am reasonably healthy, the end is in sight, not actually in my vision, not that I can feel the creeping hand of death, not that I am steeped in fear, but I am vaguely aware of this event called a “passage.”

We do not talk about death, about the end, about the various beliefs surrounding death that bounce around the world like headless chickens and over which people kill each other.  One with a bandana over his head and another with a cross hanging around his neck argue, “It is all right that I kill you because you don’t believe about death the way I do.  And I will kill your children too and not even get my hands bloody because I can kill them by pressing a button in some secret building in America, the land of the free.”  But I have strayed.

We do not talk about death because we are too afraid of it. Perhaps if we talk about it, it might come knocking at our door.  In a way, it is like getting into an airplane without a parachute.  The plane is crowded, shoulder to shoulder with passengers all of whom will be required to exit the plane before the plane lands.  Some read their Bibles, and some pray.  Some make bad jokes and drink a lot of whiskey and some pretend they are not in the airplane.  We are all in this plane together, yet we do not love each other or offer much comfort one to another.  Instead we rob and lie and cheat and threaten each other and we pick the pockets of the poor and watch the old who suffer incomprehensible pain and refuse to help them off the plane as they beg, but insist instead that they suffer all hellish pain to the end.

In this age of science we create ridiculous fantasies on the same level as the Easter bunny and Santa Claus, about life eternal to be endured with angels who have wings in a airy place of joy and endless harp music.  And we scorn those who question such beliefs.  Adult thinking about life or death is not permitted by the spiritual leaders we turn to for wisdom and comfort, for if we do not think like children our spiritual leaders cannot control us with fear and fairy tales. But they too are in denial of the truth:  They too have to exit the plane.  Jump!

I dreamed once that I was walking along the edge of a precipice and slipped off.  In a panic I grabbed the only object available, a small bush that was growing over the edge.  Below me was a canyon many thousands of feet deep and below that the canyon’s rocky bottom.   As I clung desperately to the bush I could feel its roots slipping away.  I had a choice, as we always have choices.  I could either hold on to the bush and scream panic out into the empty landscape until the roots gave way and I fell, or  I could let loose and enjoy the trip down.  I have always wanted to fly.

We, the new slaves

We are the new slaves, enslaved by the Corporate King. The king disguises itself as our democratic government. But it lies to us and betrays us. The king owns our minds.

We are the new slaves, enslaved by the king’s propaganda and lies. We are told we are free. But money controls all, and the people have little. The money I speak of buys elections and lying politicians who are the minions of the Corporate King. The Supreme Court, itself owned by the Corporate King, has just delivered our country over to the power of money with the court’s latest decision in which it proclaims that the king may spend whatever the king wishes to further enslave the people, by feeding the people lies, feeding their prejudices, feeding their fear, feeding their hatreds and suspicions and claiming it is all for their benefit and their freedom.

We are the new slaves, enslaved by the king’s voice, the television that educates us and our children, that corrupts our values with violence, that dumbs us down so we can no longer think for ourselves. We turn to the tube to think for us. It tells us what gadgets, what things to buy and how to become further enslaved to pay for them. We once enslaved the aborigines in this country by trading them trinkets and mirrors in exchange for their land. It is an old trick that those in power play on the powerless. We are the powerless.

We are the new slaves. We are enslaved by banks and their demand for interest. The banks own our homes. We pay the banks rent in the form of interest, and we keep up their property at our expense. The banks are the soul of the Corporate King. But king is governed by no moral code. The king is governed only by its greed.

We are the new slaves. We pay tribute to the Corporate King from the sweat of our bodies to finance the king’s wars, wars not for our benefit, but for the king’s further enrichment and power. Our people die in such wars. Our people die without adequate health care. Millions of our children go to bed at night hungry and uneducated. The king does not care. It cares only for its wars and its profit.

The king sits back and laughs. To control the minds of hundreds of millions of people is divine. But such power is in the hands of fools who are the collective mind of the Corporate King. That mind is terminally diseased with greed. And the people are in jeopardy, for the king will continue to betray the people and lie to the people until it has sucked out the last of our lives. The Corporate King is insane.

What shall a desperate people do? We will do nothing until we learn the truth of our slavery. Will it then be too late except to scream in the streets?

But the king is deaf.

Why I hated Avatar

Avatar I saw Avatar the day before yesterday. I hated the movie. You must see it so you can hate it with me.

I was shocked and dismayed at the special effects we were shown. They were magical. If I had been from another planet I would have stood in awe of the humanoids who could produce such a spectacle. 

I would have concluded that if they could create such as was shown on the screen in Avatar, they would be a species that could transcend the animal instincts of hate, killing, war, greed, and the insatiable quest for power. And that they would be able, instead, to find creative ways to care for the poor, to make love the overriding human emotion, to cure sickness and, in the end, to create a heaven-like place on earth for their brothers and sisters.

Instead, what made me hate the movie was that its theme was not love, but war; its message was not forgiveness but killing and hate. Its heroes were killers in the end. The story was the genetic story of mankind.

We have only so many stories in our human suitcase of stories. We have romance, love, betrayal, hate, killing, greed, and the rest of the human potpourri of stories; but they are limited. We cannot have a story without the conflicting story. Love without hate does not exist in the human experience. Nor can caring exist without greed. Peace without hostility and fear.

The sadness of the movie is that it could explode in its technical magic, but it was shackled to a totally predictable, banal story of the same human characteristics that will eventually destroy us and the planet. It is the same story that  existed when man came swinging down from the trees more than a million years ago. We make no progress, none, in reshaping our souls. We are confined to our primitive selves.

We may wish to change. But we cannot. We can yearn for beauty and grace, but we cannot shed our primal core of war. That this was proven to me at the movie is why I hated it. I wanted it to lead us out of ourselves. Instead, it taught me once again that we are trapped in our animal origins from which there is no escape.

A Christmas Story from Argus Joseph Thompson, Insane

In his reverie Argus had the vision recorded below. (Jenny, his girl friend, has been at large for some time in the mountains of Wyoming and is known as the “Mountain Woman.” She is wanted for certain crimes against the corporate glob of which she is innocent.) Here is Argus’ recounting what took place. I again warn you that Argus claims to be insane. I cannot attest otherwise.

Then just after the Senate broke for the Christmas holiday, Jenny came bursting through the door of silver-haired Senator Sylvester Sinclair’s holiday office in Jackson, Wyoming. Seventy-three representatives of the coal industry were meeting with the great senator and laughing inordinately at one of his better jokes – something about why the rooster crossed the road.

Jenny stood there surveying the 72 men and one woman. She had one hand in the pocket of her coat, the other grasping a coil of nylon rope slung over her shoulder. What happened next was reported verbatim in the Washington Post because the senator happened to have his tape recorder in his bottom desk drawer going during his meeting with the coal people, “just in case he was misquoted later on.”

“This is a stick up,” Jenny announced pointing her finger at the senator through the pocket of her coat.

“Don’t shoot!” the lobbyist from Peabody Coal cried. “I can arrange a free trip for you to Hawaii on official government business. Well, then, how about an all-expense-paid trip to Tahiti?” Then he screeched, “I know who you are! You’re the Mountain Woman!”

“The Mountain Woman?” the senator cried. “Why bless your heart, my girl, you’re Jenny Baines Rogers!” The senator never forgot the name of a constituent. He rushed toward Jenny in long steps, his hand extended. “Why I knew your mama. She came to visit the great state of Wyoming back in…”

“Stand back!” Jenny warned swinging her pocketed finger toward the senator.

“No cause for alarm,” the senator said, pinning on his best big Wyoming smile. “Why, child, we were worried about you,” the senator said in his famous baritone. “I just got the Air Force to send out another two dozen ‘copters to look for you. Thank God, girl, you’ve come to me. I can intercede with the president for a pardon. I can get you an audience with Nancy Reagan. I know James Watt, personally—a sterling man with great influence in the timber industry. I can get you cheap housing in Philadelphia. I can get you and your boyfriend food stamps. I can …”

“This is a stick up,” Jenny repeated. “Hand over your Rolodex.”

“My Rolodex? Never!” the senator cried grabbing his Rolodex and clutching it to his chest. “You can have my autographed picture of Nixon, and the gold watch dear George W gave me, but I will never hand over my Rolodex!”

“Drop it!” Jenny said.

The great senator looked at Jenny – something about the glow in her eyes and the set of her mouth that, suddenly forced his compliance. With a shaking hand he handed the Rolodex to Jenny and then he asked, “What else can I do for you, little lady?” He straightened his suit and shot Jenny another of his big Wyoming smiles. “We all love Wyoming.”

“We love your state, too,” the guy from Peabody said. “We got a 127 permits to explore for minerals in the Teton National Forest alone. We’re neighbors, lady!” He extended his hand.

“We’re all for Wyoming, too,” the guy from Mountain Coal cried. “We own over a million acres of good ranch land we bought for the water rights so we can pipe out your coal in a slurry pipeline to our furnaces back east. Why, we pay more taxes in your state than any of the other big ten and…”

“Get your suck-tubes out of our state,” Jenny said.

“I can help,” silver-haired Senator Sylvester Sinclair cried. “I can get appropriations to clean up the mess left in the desert from the uranium mines, and I can get money to fill in the pits up in the Black Hills by raising the price of federal coal leases and…”

“You can’t do that!” cried the guy from Peabody. “Remember our arrangement!”

“I made no promises,” the senator said. “I never make promises. I have never voted in parallel with the economic support I may or may not have received from your corporation or any other corporation, and you know that. Admit it!” He glanced at his desk drawer to see that it was slightly cracked open.

“Absolutely, Senator.”

“Furthermore, I report every penny of my campaign contributions and all honorariums, and I have never written a book. I comply! I comply and comply. I also go to Senate Prayer Breakfasts every week.”

Then Jenny slipped a loop of rope around the leg of the senator’s great desk, popped open the window, and descended in a single, long, beautiful rappel to the ground and disappeared into the Christmas crowd that was shopping at Ralph Lauren’s local factory outlet store.

After that the press went crazy claiming that the Mountain Woman had terrorized the senator, and the FBI was, of course, embarrassed and called every available operative into the search for Jenny.

On Christmas morning a group of 40 nondescript, oily, swirly, surly citizens gathered around silver-haired Senator Sylvester Sinclair’s home in Casper. Someone had alerted FOX television, and as soon as the cameras were set up the people began to sing “Silent Night,” and the senator came out of his house in his pajamas and slippers with his big Wyoming smile. But the second verse of Silent Night deviated somewhat from the standard lyrics.

Silent Night. Holy Night,

All is dead.

All is blight.

Round yon virgin the air is all sour Raped and pillaged for money and power,

Sleep polluted today

Sleep in eternal decay.

As they began singing other verses the senator grew increasingly irritated, and he began to scold the people saying they had no right to desecrate the holy season with such unchristian carryings-on. Further, he knew every one of them—he called all the carolers by their first names—and he said he knew their daddies, and he told them to go home and thank God they lived in America where people were free to express themselves, even if they were ill-advised, such as they were, and he wished them all a Merry Christmas. Before they could finish the last verse he slammed the door. But they had come many a mile on Christmas, and they sang the last verse anyway.

Silent Night. Holy Night,

All’s calm,

But nothing is right

‘Round yon mountain the forests are bare;

All God’s creatures lie dead everywhere,

Made into money for more millionaires, So sleep in heavenly peace,

Sleep in heavenly peace.

And from that day until the senator returned to Washington, people picketed the senator’s house with signs that read, “Take the suck-tubes out of our Mother” and “Don’t sell our Mother to the corporate dead” and “Your mother is angry.” After he returned to Washington a small group of the same rag-taggers surrounded his town house with similar placards keeping a silent round-the-clock vigil. But nothing changed, at least not that a person could see at first. Not until the silver-haired senator’s Roledex in the hands of the Mountain Woman, began to reveal certain facts and bring about certain changes that were nearly imperceptible at first.

(This is all that Argus Joseph Thompson, Insane, told me at the time of this posting. Stay tuned.)

Argus Joseph Thompson, Insane, on Moral Burnout Syndrome (MBS)

Argus Joseph Thompson, insane, presents the following on MBS. Its veracity as well as its merit are, as always, subject to question.

On the tenth of November, S. B. Hemmingsford was arrested by the FBI. A 47-count indictment handed down by a New York Federal Grand Jury charged Hemmingsford and three Wall Street brokerage house executives with insider trading in the stock of General-O Dynamics and 14 of its subsidiaries. The New York Times reported that Hemmingsford and his three co-defendants had allegedly amassed illegal profits exceeding $3.5 billion. All four defendants were immediately released on their own bonds.

Although the government claimed Hemmingsford was a criminal, the government saw him as a special kind of criminal entitled to special privileges. If you’ve illegally hoarded large sums of money before being caught illegally hoarding more, the presumption exists that you are responsible and can be turned loose on your signature to await trial…while Leroy, who is penniless and homeless and who robbed the 7-11 for $23 to get a quick fix, has his bond set at a $100,000, which he; his twelve brothers and sisters; and all of their known spouses; offspring; current and discarded soul mates and their pushers; along with their friends on Twitter and Facebook collectively could not gather.

Crime is a sport reserved for the rich.

Persons of equal loot, moolah and scratch are equal—that’s what Jefferson should have written if he was going to be truthful about it, not that worn out aphorism that he dumped in the Constitution —All (not including women) men are created equal. But why should some wino whose total assets never exceeded half a bottle of cheap Tokay and a three-month growth of whiskers have the same rights as me?

I once knew a rich man who I thought wasn’t a criminal. He bought a second-hand mattress at Orville’s Store for the Homeless, and when he was looking for bedbug larvae he found where the mattress had been sewn up. When he cut it open he found $423. Since wealth is always comparative, compared to me, he is rich. I am not mentioning names because this man did not pay taxes on his windfall. Once more that proves the age-old truth that behind every great wealth is great crime.

Anyway, a few days after Hemmingsford was released he appeared with his lawyer, Rutherford P. Benyon, before the federal magistrate where he entered pleas of “Not guilty,” and “Not guilty by reason of insanity.”

The Times filed a follow-up story, the headline of which read:


An attorney for S. B. Hemmingsford, chairman of the board of General-O Dynamics, today claimed his client was the latest victim of the newly discovered personality disorder known as Moral Burnout Syndrome (MBS), a disease said to plague high-ranking corporate and public officials operating under extreme stress and recently described by the Nobel Prize winner, Solomon P. Goldberg.

Benyon said his client was a victim of MBS and has been in the acute throes of the disease since the recent attacks on his company’s logging operations by a radical environmental organization known as The Children. Benyon said Hemmingsford took The Children’s invasion of the company’s timber sale, where thousands of trees were spiked to prevent their harvest, as an assault levied against him personally. It was the classic “final stressor-straw,” a term invented by Goldberg to denote an identifiable last emotional trauma, which, when combined with prior stresses, at last pushes the victim into the disorder.

Benyon said, “The action of these terrorists was allegedly to save trees, but their true motivation was to shove my client over the edge into the full throes of Moral Burnout Syndrome.”

The Times’ cover story recorded the history of Goldberg’s discovery of MBS, a breakthrough lauded by social scientists as the long-sought connecting link between science and morality. In part the article read:

Already some experts are proclaiming Goldberg’s identification of the disease as a contribution to modern psychology comparable only to Freud’s The Ego and the Id. Goldberg discovered that wealthy or powerful self-made men approaching the summit of their careers often suddenly plummet into the gaping hole of moral decadence. At the time of the onset of the disease most of the victims have already achieved what Goldberg called “their three primary P’s—power, prestige and position, and their secondary P’s, their plethora of playthings—their Porsches, their private psychiatrists, their personal pushers and their sultan’s assortment of blond pubescents.”

In short, the victims have it all. Yet quite without warning, many inexplicably leap over the edge into a life of crime.

The Times writers observed that the victims’ crimes were pathetically unimaginative—common thefts, ordinary bribery, artless payoffs, embezzlements, even mundane murders for hire. They embezzled when they didn’t need the money and illegally manipulated the markets when they didn’t know what to do with the cash they already had.

The Goldberg article asked by its subtitle, “Is Moral Burnout a Crime?” A picture of the distinguished professor receiving the Nobel Prize from the Royal Caroline MedicoChirurgical Institute in Sweden accompanied the lead story in which the Times writers, in their usual imperious style, traced the psychological progression of the disorder as described by Dr. Goldberg :

The archetypical MBS victim, the high- pressure executive, having existed under fire for years, is one day heard to begin screaming, “It’s war out there, man! War! Your competitors want to kill you. Your customers want to kill you. Your board of directors wants to kill you. Your employees want to kill you. And when you get home, the old lady wants to kill you. It’s war, and it’s hell!” The victim begins to complain of autonomic anal tightening and other vague symptoms that are often precursors of the disorder.

Goldberg likens the disease to a soldier in combat who, after suffering extreme stress from fear and physical exhaustion, gets a letter from home saying John Wayne, his hero, was the secret lover of Rock Hudson. It’s the “final stressor-straw” that pushes the soldier over the edge into post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

MBS is a disease in the full sense of the word, Goldberg claims. “We would never permit the criminal courts to punish our leaders for having suffered a heart attack. To the same extent we cannot allow our criminal justice system to deal with this subtle and complex syndrome.” When asked about his willingness to testify in Hemmingsford’s case, Dr. Goldberg said, “It will be my privilege to convince the jury that this man was not responsible for his crimes but was, instead, a helpless victim of the insidious side effects of MBS.”

Argus concluded his presentation on MBS by claiming that MBS was merely collateral damage in a system engaged in the eternal and holy wars of American capitalism.

I find his logic and his conclusions unsupported by fact or logic but fully in support of his claim that he is insane.

The wild pig story

Someone wrote me the following:

A chemistry professor in a large college had some exchange students in the class. One day, while the class was in the lab, the Professor noticed one student who kept rubbing his back, and stretching as if his back hurt.

The professor asked the young man what was the matter. The student told him he had a bullet lodged in his back. He had been shot while fighting communists who were trying to overthrow his country’s government and install a new communist government.

In the midst of his story he looked at the professor and asked a strange question. He asked, “Do you know how to catch wild pigs?”

The professor thought it was a joke and asked for the punch line. The young man said this was no joke.

“You catch wild pigs by finding a suitable place in the woods and putting corn on the ground. The pigs find it and begin to come everyday to eat the free corn. When they are used to coming every day, you put a fence down one side of the place where they are used to coming. When they get used to the fence, they begin to eat the corn again and you put up another side of the fence. They get used to that and start to eat again. You continue until you have all four sides of the fence up – with a gate. The pigs, who are used to the free corn, come through the gate now to eat and then you slam the gate down on them and catch the whole herd.

Suddenly the wild pigs have lost their freedom. They run around and around inside the fence, but they are caught. Soon they go back to eating the free corn. They are so used to it that they have forgotten how to forage in the woods for themselves, so they accept their captivity.”

The young man then told the professor that is exactly what he sees happening to America.

My response was as follows:

This is a favorite story of corporate America that has captured most Americans through television, teaching us year after year what we must buy in order to be cool Americans. We buy on credit. We mortgage our homes and cars. We shop, as the saying goes, until we drop. Then the corporate master teaches us how to get out of debt by going to a debt-consultant who takes more of our earnings to help us pay the corporate overlord.

Corporations do not build fences to catch people. They throw propaganda nets over the people called advertising. The bait in the nets are the TV shows the people watch, and as we watch we are gradually dumbed-down and captured by endless corporate ads that tell us how we must spend our earnings to be acceptable – the new car –the new TV set – the right clothes – on and endlessly on.

Now that we are in debt and need help, the corporations love to tell the pig story. The question they ask is: Why don’t you work to feed yourself and your family? Why aren’t you independent like you should be? Why do you want something free?

I have rarely seen a corporate executive who was hungry. As a corporate executive who tells the pig story he also comes begging to the government to save his company from bankruptcy, and, at the same time, like a true pig, awards himself and his fellow pigs millions in bonuses while over twenty-five percent of America’s children go to bed hungry.

Please tell the children and their parents the pig story.