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No Willing Witness to Catastrophes

January 30, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

By Natasha Josefowitz, Ph.D.

LA JOLLA, California — The other day I saw on television some scientists who said that within our lifetime, we will be able to live till 150 and stay healthy.

I’m in my early eighties and started contemplating living another seventy years. To my own surprise, that did not sound very appealing.

I sort of feel “done.” I have traveled to wherever I had wanted to go and have lost my wanderlust; I have seen a lot of theater, listened to a multitude of concerts, danced, sang, played. I have not missed a thing. So while I still enjoy a good play or symphony and a dinner at a fine restaurant, I do not need to live longer in order to see, hear, or eat more.

I used to like shopping, now I’m happy to just wear out what hangs in my closet—no, it’s not the latest fashion, but the slacks with the elastic waistband and the shirt that goes over it will do just fine.

One of my main reasons for not wanting to live till 150 is the current state of the world. I do not wish to be a witness to its disintegration.

Just reading about the coming famines that will engulf a large number of people, the climate changes that will create droughts and floods, the rising oceans that will displace millions of people living on coasts who will have to migrate inland to already overpopulated areas and will surely not be welcomed, not to speak of drowning polar bears and all those animals losing their habitats. I don’t want to worry about rogue dictators with nuclear capacities nor about the increasing disparity between very rich and very poor and all this leading to civil unrest and more wars. As the world’s religions are leaning more toward extremism, terrorism is on the rise.

Right now, I am safe in my little cocoon of a retirement community—surrounded by friends with not a care in the world, except for reading the newspapers and getting upset about the treatment of prisoners or the orphan children who have lost their parents to AIDS or the emaciated mothers with dying infants trekking through the desert to escape the invaders, the killings, the rapes, or the soldiers returning with post-traumatic stress syndrome and our hospitals unable to cope with the numbers.

Reading the papers, watching T.V., and realizing that none of this will get better, why would anyone want to live to see all this get worse?

And yet, what amazes me is that we still complain when the soup is served lukewarm or the haircut is not becoming or we misplace our keys. Yes, I get upset if I gain a couple of pounds or my children forget to call on Mother’s Day.

How is it possible to worry about such mundane matters when the rest of the world is collapsing under the  weight of incompetence, greed, and lack of planning, lack of caring? Are we all in denial about the worldwide suffering?

No, I don’t want to live until 150. I’m ready to go at a minute’s notice. I am done; it’s been a great adventure; I have participated; I have also led; I pioneered some; I have loved well, raised good children, seen grandchildren prosper. No, I’m not saying I want to die—I’m enjoying this present ride too much to let go voluntarily—but I’m not extending this beyond the normal expectations. There is nothing left undone. So, in the meantime, I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s lunch with friends, to seeing that good movie and reading that book everyone is talking about. I’m looking forward to going to bed with the sound of the ocean through the open window. This is still absolutely wonderful, but not for another 70 or so years.

Josefowitz is a freelance writer, whose column also appears in the La Jolla Village Voice

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