The Long Crusade for Women’s Rights

My birth mother was destined for great things.  Born into a first-generation immigrant Greek-American family in New Jersey, she was the first girl in her community to graduate from high school, and then the first woman to graduate from college.  She was brilliant and idealistic, and like many young people coming of age in the 1940s, she believed in the possibility of positive social change through government and the innovations of Roosevelt’s New Deal.  I don’t know the details or even for sure if it is true, but I was told by family members that my mother served as an intern in the … Read More

The World is Coming Unglued

I don’t know exactly what I mean when I say the world is coming unglued. But I feel it. It’s a premonition, a tremor in the fabric of the reality that until recently I thought was more reliable and solid.  I also have a better sense of what it means for the world to be “glued”—a sense that everything coheres and sticks together.  The world is “glued” when what I experience and what other people experience is pretty much the same world.  But that’s not true anymore.  More and more people are curating their own reality, their own sense of what is true and … Read More

What Is Your Mental Time Horizon?

If you google “time horizon,” you will get various articles about financial time horizon—in other words, whether are you are short-term or long-term investor.  That’s not what I mean; I’m talking about your mental time horizon—how far ahead you are thinking and planning in your life.  This kind of time horizon changes with how young or old you are, whether you are anxious or calm, whether your life is in a stable plateau or in a time of rapid change.  Outside events can change the time horizon for everyone.  For example, Covid, particularly in its early months, contracted everyone’s time horizon to a few … Read More

The Importance of Being Quiet

Our world is awash in noise, and I don’t mean just traffic sounds and jackhammers.  I also mean the digital world of social media, pop-up ads, spam, phishing, unwanted phone calls and texts, flashing billboards, YouTube pitches, TikTok glitz—the list goes on.  I am of the last generation that grew up without computers.  Soon there will be no-one left who remembers such a world, and before long no-one will remember a world without smartphones either. Children and teenagers, whose brains are still developing, might be neurologically damaged by all this digital stimulation—it is too soon for the long-term research to know for sure. … Read More

Caste and Race

I have just finished reading Caste by Isabel Wilkerson.  This was a best-selling sensation when it came out a couple of years ago, and I’m sorry I didn’t read it sooner.  It is quite a powerful presentation of race in America as an instance of the wider and deeper phenomenon of caste, which Wilkerson analyzes in India and Nazi Germany for comparison.  If you haven’t read it yet, I strongly urge you to do so.  It will transform and deepen your understanding of racism and the long history of slavery in America, and illuminate the ways that caste, even more than race, is central … Read More

The Two Faces of Nostalgia

I posted a blog recently entitled “Life is a Series of Close Calls,” where I discussed the beneficial role of reminiscing as we age.  Shortly after that, I happened to read about new research concerning the positive aspects of nostalgia in relation to pain perception.  Scientists subjected participants to a modest pain stimulus—heat stimulation—and then asked them to rate their perceived pain while looking either at “old cartoons, childhood games or retro candy” or at more modern images.  The participants that looked at “nostalgic” photos reported significantly less pain, and their response was validated using MRI brain scans.  The purpose of the study was … Read More

Life is a Series of Close Calls

I just celebrated my 75th birthday.  Does this mean I’m finally old? I don’t feel old.  I’m in good health, I’m active, I’m still intent on pursuing my established career as an author.  My memory for words and numbers seems as nimble as ever.  For the last ten years the topic of aging has been my specialty as a writer, so with every year that passes I am more of a living embodiment of what I write about.  Many of the readers of my aging books are now younger than I am; they look to my books to help them understand what is in … Read More

War is Back. It Never Left

War fills the headlines.  Stories about what is happening in Ukraine are everywhere.  Each day I open the New York Times on my phone and see the headline in their largest type—the one reserved for the most dire news.  I scroll down and there are heartbreaking photos of massive destruction, dead bodies, smoke rising from unextinguishable fires.  Journalists add to their stories the inevitable comparison: “This is the worst world threat since the Cuban missile crisis.” What they mean is that the threat of nuclear war—after what has seemed like a thirty year hiatus—is once again visible.  Could it actually happen? This article discusses the Read More

Winding Your Clock Without Setting It

Here is a story about my first Buddhist teacher, Shunryu Suzuki, as recounted by one of his early students: “As I was telling Suzuki Roshi what a disaster my life had become, he began to chuckle. I asked him what I should do.  ‘Sit meditation,’ he replied, ‘Life without meditation is like winding your clock without setting it.  It runs perfectly well, but it doesn’t tell time.’ “

This story is from Zen Is Right Herea collection of Suzuki Roshi stories by my good friend and dharma brother David Chadwick.  This story took place perhaps fifty years ago, in the early … Read More

A Dog Was Rescued.

I recently read a heartwarming story on NPR of a dog named Mia, who ran away after a car accident and was lost for a month before finally being found by neighbors who had set up a remote camera to take pictures of the place the accident had happened.  The camera showed that the dog was returning twice a day to the spot, looking for her owners, but was gone by the time the neighbors arrived to pick her up.

Eventually Mia was found and reunited with her family.  The NPR story showed a sweet picture of Mia licking her happy owner’s … Read More