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Hollow Cozy Trees
Unlike other areas in my life where sci-fi and fantasy have helped me set goals achieve some degree of mental stability, these genres have left me ill-prepared to deal with growing older.
Since retiring a year ago, I have only been bored twice – and each time I joyously raised my hands into the air to actually in celebration of not figuratively having some fire somewhere that had to be put out. But there have been times that I have wondered if I was still an important member of society, apart from my family obviously.
Sci-Fi’s view on aging is often written using the Logan’s Run option: zap anyone over 30 out of existence like a bug on a wall. Our art editor, Richard Tornello, wrote a tale called Hollo Grammy that raised the question of what The State might do with older people. You can read it in the archives here at Quantum Muse – published in 3/2014.
Beyond this preference to simply zap the old or mow them down with machineguns, there are characters like Yoda in Science Fiction who are revered for their wisdom. But they are only available to share their life lessons if you can find them – as they usually have the good sense to go live in a swamp or inside an ice covered mountain rather than listen to be insect buzzing of young adventurers.
A saying comes to mind: Youth is wasted on the young. Mork’s society visited this area on the TV show starring Robin Williams. On his home planet, newborns were hatched in huge eggs as old people and as they grew older mentally, they grew younger physically. Which is how Mork and Mindy gave birth to Mearth – a 50 something Jonathan Winters.
In tales of fantasy, oldsters are more abundant and are often kind and wise, often shaking their heads and rolling their eyes at the rush of youth – like Gandalf in Lord of the Rings. This centuries old wizard truly seems to be fond of the hobbits he has vowed to protect and lead, and humans have always loved him for it: in American elections, Gandalf still usually gets upwards of 500 votes…if only Gandalf were an actual candidate *sigh*
Another of my favorite elderly wizards is the rendition of Merlyn found in The Once and Future King by T. H. White. Once again, he lives backwards, not being able to change his past, only being able to watch day by day as he discovers how the heck he ended up imprisoned inside a cave for centuries. Although it must have been possible to profit in his knowledge about the future, Merlyn seems to have decided that a quiet existence in a cozy tree is the best ways to live out one’s later years. Perhaps he’s right.
In the real world the cost of caring for elderly people with Alzheimer’s is posed to be larger than the American Gross National Product within 30 years, running the government into the ground. This is due to the sheer numbers of Americans living long enough to run into this terrible monster. Some states here in the U.S. are already throwing their hands in the air in frustration at the cost of care after grampa keeps wandering off and forgets where he is and where he has been. The research on this terrible disease should be of paramount importance before the government collapses in upon itself but it isn’t even being discussed on Capitol Hill.
Are people simply living too long?
Sci-fiers and always saying that the longest possible lifespan should be a human goal, but what would life be like for people living to be 500 years old? Would it be the fulfillment of all our dreams – or an unending nightmare of few resources and way too many people? Well class – your writing assignment this week is…KIDDING, just kidding.
As far as I’m concerned, I think I’ll grab a Budweiser and retire early to my cozy hollow tree, settling in to read this month’s stories here in Quantum Muse…and I invite – nay encourage – you to do the same.
Do you want a king or a rightfully elected human? I'm not sure the idea of a supreme type being as a ruler has a good history on this planet.
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