“What? You didn’t write about the debate?”

Generally, The Washington Post series on coping with the pandemic has been pretty irrelevant to me. Today’s newsletter confirmed why. It ended with this:

“Maybe I sound a little like a retiree. Well, yeah! Retirees have a lot to teach younger people about future orientation. It’s not so much that older people plan fewer activities, writes Marc Wittmann in his book “Felt Time”; it’s that they plan them for a more immediate future — the same way people survive a crisis like this.”  (Hey sweet cheeks, we were not born retirees, but whatev’)

I guess the retiree “crisis” is the impending ultimate nap. Why do retirees “plan (activities) for a more immediate future…”? In my case it’s because I finally can BUT I always have. I’ve never been a person to plan for the long term. I guess I’ve never believed in the long term. I know people do plan like that, a lot of people, maybe even most.

The newsletter today advises people to set “small, achievable goals” for themselves. But isn’t that always a good idea? It also advises people to notice smaller things — like the plants growing on their daily walks. Isn’t that always a good idea? It also advises planning a “mini-vacation” every week — such as riding your bike in a different part of town so they have something to look forward to.

The thread in all of these is fighting the idea that there is no future, nothing to look forward to, black emptiness.

I get that, but I don’t believe that or, having grown up near Air Force bases during the Cold War inoculated me with that world view, I take it for granted, sort of “Yeah? So what else is new?”

I thought about the Cold War as I read this passage in the WP newsletter:

“But the pandemic is this ongoing monster,” said Alice Holman of the University of California at Irvine. In casual speech, “quarantine” no longer has much to do with local orders, or even literally staying inside. It’s a state of mind, an eternal present. “Quarantine” is a vacuum for plans deferred until “this is all over” — not that anyone can define this, all or over.

“We have this chronic underlying stressor that’s holding us hostage,” Holman said.

Plenty of people back then believed that was only a matter of time before WW III. A lot of those people had already lived through two world wars and didn’t see much prospect of that kind of human behavior stopping any time soon. Many people were authentically frightened and, as everyone knows, we had bomb drills at school and watched films that simulated what would have happened if the bomb dropped on Hiroshima had been dropped on some place in England (ie. white people). WW II hovered over the lives of Baby Boomers and the Cold War surrounded us with its impending apocalyptic doom. Scary books like On the Beach made that future very real and moreso when made into films.

The bomb itself was one thing. The worst part was the residual nuclear fallout, so people built shelters to protect themselves from the bomb itself in which they could stay long enough for the fallout to be gone. (Hello Chernobyl). My family lived 2 miles from the second most important target for Soviet bombs so we had a pretty cavalier perspective on the whole thing.

But it was there. A big difference between The Bomb and the pandemic is that the Cold War could be satirized (and was) and this disease cannot.

Meanwhile, those of you who have visited Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, Granby and Grand Lake, be grateful you saw it in its splendor because it is now on fire. I guess we Coloradans haven’t swept or raked our forests sufficiently, either.


30 thoughts on ““What? You didn’t write about the debate?”

  1. How old is this Marc Wittmann? I Googled him but could not find his age. I am not a planner, per se. I like the spontaneity of things. We retirees plan for the immediate future? I love how people think they know what they are talking about when they have not experienced ‘the thing’ themselves. Have fun with retirement, Marc. Try to remember that ‘the immediate future’ is a relative term.

    • Seriously. As Jim Morrison wrote about so well, “The future is uncertain and the end is always near.” I wanted to slap that “kid.” I found this about Marc Wittmann on Amazon: He looks to be in his 50s.

      Marc Wittmann is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology and Mental Health, Freiburg, Germany. He studied Psychology and Philosophy at the Universities of Fribourg, Switzerland, and Munich, Germany (1990-1994). He received his Ph.D. (1997) and his Habilitation (2007) at the Institute of Medical Psychology, University of Munich. From 2000 to 2004 he was head of the Generation Research Program, Bad Tölz, University of Munich. 2004 to 2009 he was Research Fellow in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California San Diego.

  2. I had to read that first quote a few times…what the hell? Lumping us all into the same world view is irritating. I remember the hiding under the desks. I also remember telling one of my grandmothers how excited I was to be pregnant with my son in 1987. She was in her 90s and was not happy for me – “why bring another child into this world with all these awful things happening?” Needless to say, it took me by surprise. But she had lived through the 1918 pandemic and 2 world wars and all that came after. That does something to a person. Impending doom: front and center.

    • I know plenty of retirees without that world view and some young people (as I was once) who do have that world view. It was a really lousy newsletter today. It just pointed out to me the apparent lack of context some people in the younger generations live with. And then I thought, “Maybe I’m just thinking like an old person.”

      • Maybe you are, maybe you aren’t…but what does “thinking like an old person” really mean anyway? That’s what I often wonder now…that I’m an old person. Although…old compared to what…well, that’s a whole other conversation. 🙂

  3. Generalisations! I know lots of ‘retirees’ all different ages, life experiences. After all retirement can encompass around 40 years. I know someone I’d like to be a retiree, your delightful president! He can go and play in the bunkers on his golf courses!

  4. Frankly, as the election approaches, I am paying less and less attention. I hate watching the slow car crash as the Tangerine Traitor promises to use fraud and violence to hang on to power. Of course, we non-Americans can’t voter, even though the US president is still a big influence on our lives in the UK, getting us into wars, threatening us witth hormonal beef and adding to climate change more than most. We haver our own problems here too. A bone fide liar as PM and own own cock-up in dealing with covid. Instead
    , I am using my self isolation (I am about to have an operation) to write more and read more blogs and writing web-sites. Have a look at my tales of boarding US warshipos, climbing the Canadian Department of National defence, taking too many drugs on the way home from Woodstock and other sillinesses at https://writesimon.wordpress.com
    and keep up the good work. all the best, Simon himself

  5. Do you think some day we can have a pandemic “Dr Strangelove”? If Rod Serling were around, a pandemic “Twilight Zone”? I grew up a few miles from the NORAD UNIVAC. It was to control the B-52 (counter)attack in case of nuclear war. I didn’t know it was there until I visited it in a computer programming class in junior high. Since my dad was in the Air National Guard on that base, I assume he knew about it, and wonder if that’s why he made fun of the stuff I was taught in school. I assume he knew we would not survive the initial blast; and that we would be an early target.

    • I lived by Offutt Air Force Base/Strategic Air Command Headquarters and my dad worked there. I still get nostalgic when I see the tails of B-52s. I loved Dr. Strangelove; I actually saw it at the Offutt AFB movie theater. 🙂

  6. I’ve got a rake…just used it to rake the snow, because you know, as you get older you misplace things…like prescription sunglasses…so how can I plan for the future if I can’t see my way there…and I’m not quite a retiree, but could be…just sayn’….all a matter of perspective…

    • Absolutely. Bear wants to come up and hang with Ophelia and the snow. I told her she can’t and we’re getting snow Monday. 🙂 My shovel is by my front door because it’s a useful tool when I rake leaves.

      • Tell Bear, Ophelia hopes that maybe one day when they open the borders….sigh. Meanwhile ,Ophelia promises to roll in the snow for Bear, we’re just on our way out! Haha, sometimes I use my snow shovel for the leaves too!!

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