Catching Up

26 Feb
0

I’m back after taking a long break from adding blogs to my website.  What was I busy doing?  I was continuing to live life in my busy retirement village, exercising, taking classes, and writing a column for a newspaper in my community.  And, for two years,  I was researching and writing my third book.

Actually, I didn’t intend to write a third book after I completed my second book, “Out of Step:  A Diary To My Dead Son.”  But the niggling challenge in my brain kept saying, “You’ve written two non-fiction books, but you haven’t tried a fiction book yet.”

It took me awhile to convince myself that I wanted to start another book, and a fiction one at that.  What would it be about?  I decided to write a book of philosophical science fiction.  You might wonder what genre philosophical science fiction is.  I’m not sure, but it described what I thought I wanted to write.

I’ve been a member of our local Astronomy Club for many years.  I knew I was fascinated by the thought of “out there” even though I didn’t understand much about it.  Outer space is a very complicated place!  I also began doing some research to catch up with the world through a well written weekly news magazine called “The Week.”  Although I had vague memories of the first Star Trek tv show, I knew nothing about the series that followed — “Star Trek:  The Next Generation.”  Fortunately, there were frequent re-runs on tv to help me catch up.

Slowly, I began to enter two rather new worlds to me — science fiction, and new ideas and discoveries taking place in technology, astronomy, and neuroscience.  I was excited about all the new (to me) information flooding into my brain.

In the meantime, life went on with its ups, downs, and detours.  For 2 years, I researched and wrote rather regularly. In the third year, I got stuck.  For over one year, the book kept reminding me it was waiting for me, but I guiltily ignored it.

Eventually a writer friend gave me a helpful push along.  I began writing again and the ending of the book just popped into my mind.  I have just completed my first draft of “The Old Lady and the Alien.”  A first draft isn’t the end draft, but it’s a reasonable start with a complete plot — and to my astonishment, a possible lead in to a sequel.

What I didn’t realize that third year was that I had entered a rather deep depression. Sometimes it works like that for writers.  The writer writes the book, but the book tells the writer what’s going on in her mind.

So, now I’m more and less back emotionally, refining my first draft, and planning the rest of my life.

 

Tony Nicklinson recently died in England.  It was bittersweet — bitter because he was only 58 and had lived the last 6 years of his life locked inside a body that allowed only his brain to function normally; sweet because he had wanted to die.  He had taken England to court to allow him to die of doctor-assisted suicide, but they had refused his plea.  He refused food, caught pneumonia, and died peacefully 10 days later with the full consent and understanding of his wife and children.

In a battle between immortality and death, everyone knows that death will always win.  Yet some countries, including most of the states in the U.S., go to very extreme lengths and endless expense to force immortality upon those who wish it, as well as those who don’t.  Only three states in the U.S. – Oregon, Washington, and Montana – allow assisted suicide.   What we allow our dogs, cats, and other beloved pets, we do not allow our suffering humans.

Los Angeles Times reporter Steve Lopez has written several columns agonizing over the excruciatingly slow death of his father.  Watching it first hand made him vow not to die like that.  He observed that, “hanging on seems to be the norm in our culture, thanks to advances in medical technology and the widely held opinion that death is optional.”  We diagnose diseases such as Parkinson’s and dementia, while other cultures might use the simple diagnosis of  “old age.”  University of Hawaii professor emeritus S. Cromwell Crawford pointed out that “we’ve got the money and we’re spending it, but is this the right thing we’re doing morally?”  As 6 year old Hush Puppy in the movie, “Beasts of the Southern Wild” so correctly observed about modern society, “When you get old, they plug you into the wall.”

Eskimos might put their elderly out on ice floes; the Jains of India practice “sallekhana” – starving oneself to death at the time one decides is right –  and think of it as “a good and honorable death.”  In looking for a place sympathetic to dying, Whitney Braun, a bioethicist at Loma Linda University Medical Center, noted that “though you’d think religious societies would be more comfortable with death, in some respects it’s the nonbelievers who have better hospice centers and more end-of-life options.  As 6 year old Hush Puppy in the movie, “Beasts of the Southern Wild” observed of modern society, “When you get old, they plug you into the wall.”

Living isn’t easy, but dying in many countries, especially the U.S.,  can be harder.   Death is the norm in nature for everything that lives.  Indeed, there is a certain beauty in fulfilling the natural cycle of life and death.  But the quest for immortality eats up the major chunk of Medicare, as well as the hearts and minds of the families who tearfully maintain a vigil by the bedsides of their loved ones, watching them die piece by piece, function by function.

I remember an old Star Trek program where the society had evolved to the point where the bodies had disappeared and only the brains were left.  If there were technology that would keep the brains from deteriorating, perhaps then immortality would make sense.  Without that possibility, let nature take its course.

Comments?? E-mail Suellen at ZimaTravels.com

Mike says: Hi Suellen! I enjoyed your post on dying … not really enjoyed it, but, you know what I mean. Sometimes we really do treat our pets better.

Many stories are known about Martin Luther King, Jr.  I recently read one I had never heard before.  It appeared in The Orange County Register on January 9 and was written by Luaine Lee of the McClatchy Tribune.  I didn’t know the name Nichelle Nichols, but I instantly recognized her picture as Uhura in the original Star Trek series.  Nichols liked her character as Uhura, but her dream was to get into Broadway in musical theater.  So, after one season as Uhura, she told the creator of Uhura, Gene Roddenberry, that she was ready to move on.   He asked her to think it over carefully before making a decision to leave.

She went to an NAACP fundraiser the following day.  Some would call it chance; some would call it coincidence; some would say it was her destiny that a fan wanted to meet her.  She instantly recognized the man who stood in front of her and said, “I am the biggest Trekkie on the planet.”  It was Martin Luther King, Jr.    In her words, “I’ve never been at a loss for words but my mouth just opened and closed.  I was stunned.  He told me how important the role was and the manner I’d developed the character, with strength and dignity.”

When she thanked him and told him that she was preparing to leave the show, he didn’t hesitate to say, “You cannot leave…It’s part of history now.  This man has made the show that projects 300 years from now.  This is who we are and we are beginning here, and you’re representing us.  You cannot leave because nobody can replace you.  Only you.”  In fact, Star Trek was the only tv series that Dr. King and his wife allowed  their children to stay up and see.  And Uhura was their hero.

Nichols changed her mind on the spot, and remained as the Uhura the original Trekkies remember.  Those who didn’t live in the times of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement  most likely find it hard to imagine what all the fuss was about.  They are used to seeing a wide variety of African-American stars on television and movies.  But the fact that they don’t understand what the lives of black Americans was like in the 1960s is part of the success story of the Civil Rights Movement.

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!

Comments?? Please e-mail Suellen@ZimaTravels.com

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