Archive for August, 2014

ASSIMILATION

August 5, 2014

Assimilation

I have started this blog several times in recent weeks, but meet with confusion and frustration each time as I try to understand how my reactions to a variety of events are shaping the next segments of my travel along life’s trail. Each time I think I’ve identified a coherent revelation, something new emerges and the horizon of revelation moves a bit farther away.

At times I feel a bit like Einstein must have felt as he sought to define a Universal Field Theory to provide the total explanation of the physical universe, as I seek to achieve a comprehensive understanding of the elements and totality of personal relationships. But with each new thought comes a greater appreciation of Alexander Pope’s poem, “Alps on Alps”, that compares a new idea to climbing the first mountain, only to see many more beyond, having reached the first summit. New ideas generate a progeny of thoughts, each becoming its own Alp.

With that, I warn the reader that this will be rambling as new insights may occur even as I write, and reveal areas deserving of more introspection. At the core, I am concerned with the internal transformations within a person, particularly myself, in reaction to change. Furthermore, as I explore these reactions, my perspective is that it is the changes in interpersonal relationships which have the most significant effects; changes in one’s environment such as different living quarters, geographic change, financial concerns are each important, but lie more in the cultural anthropology classification as an Accommodation, not necessarily a permanent change in the individual. More permanence is seen in its partner, Assimilation, which represents a major and generally permanent change in the basic functioning of the organism. My interest was to consider the role of assimilation in its effect on my life, and perhaps to later contemplate its contribution toward the evolutionary and extinction processes of species. What happens when Assimilation does not occur?

 

This project began unknowingly several years ago, when my wife indicated that “when I retire, I’m going to move to be with our grandchildren, and we’ll sell the house.” As each year came and went, she put off that retirement but still planned to follow up on her statement. Realizing that the move would be a reality, I bought a small house in our town in order to provide a “downsized” living space for my own quarters. I had no real desire to move to the East Coast, having lived there for several years back in the 60’s; at the same time I was not interested in maintaining our large lawn and numerous trees during the warm seasons, nor paying the heating and water bills year around. Our house had stairs, items which are becoming increasingly difficult for my neuropathic feet and legs to conquer. I prefer to save that energy for climbing the small hill to the second green at our local golf course.

Finally, last July she retired from her school job and went about purchasing suitable quarters in the East. Having completed that task, she went through all the items in our house and selected those to transport by UHaul truck across the country. We headed out on a 3-day journey in late June, having spent a physically debilitating week packing, and moving large objects into the garage, the sun room, or the truck in preparation with putting the house on the market and auctioning the remains. The prospect of having to reverse the process at the other end held little appeal, but it had to be done. After unloading and turning in the rental truck, I flew back to Wyoming and began assembling another load to be transported by me in my “new” car.

To this point, nothing had invaded my conscious thoughts about “transition”; things were moving too rapidly to allow time for contemplation. But the first tentative move occurred during my trip East in early July to attend my wife’s family reunion, an event that occurs every three years at one of the extended families’ home locales.

I stopped for a day in my hometown of Kansas City, Missouri, and visited my parents’ graves and the house where we lived during my first 9 years. At each of these, I had the urge to share my observations with my brother—who passed away a year ago. At that time, there had been little overt grieving; he and I were more like friends than brothers given the nine year difference in our ages growing up. But suddenly I really missed him, and discovered that I had as yet to assimilate the fact that I was now alone in the sense that he was no longer available to share the few things that had meaning only to the two of us—family, memories, hopes.

As I continued my journey east and reflected on my reaction, another similar but more powerful realization crept into my conscious thought. Unintended events occurring a few recent years ago had removed a highly-treasured colleague from communication; verbal interchange that began in the professional arena which we both shared, was soon expanded with joint recognition of deep-seated needs to explore ideas and beliefs if only to more fully understand one’s own self and role as a social being. That same urge to share that I experienced briefly with my brother, occurs unabated almost daily toward this former colleague. And although there can be no closure, I still experience at least some degree of intellectual satisfaction in digesting morsels of thought emanating impersonally on an infrequent basis from that source. At the same time, I occasionally write blogs to clarify to myself my perspectives on what has been set forth, and this personal introspection I believe helps me to further understand who I am and, even at my advanced age, to look toward a future of continuing self-discovery.

I mentioned earlier that some changes, such as geography, merely require accommodations while the “basic person” remains the same. I can cite numerous examples in my own life, having grown up in a city and gradually moving to smaller and smaller communities. In the Peace Corps in Ghana (I do not have Ebola!), I lived one year in the rainforest and the next on the grassland south of the Sahara. I have had many jobs, in many locales; I have had a multitude of education and training. None of these required me to make any basic changes; I was evidently well-enough prepared in order to adjust to virtually every circumstance. Some folks take this to the extreme; one of my friends whom I met while in 4th grade, decided to move to the highlands of Ecuador, where she had never been, learn Spanish, build a house, start a farm, and marry the man who built the house. At the age of 70! But none of these involved basic changes in one’s belief system, only new knowledge was required in order to deal with new circumstances.

On the opposite side of this topic, I know of another person who, having been raised Catholic, made a “total immersion” into Islam after loving and marrying a Palestinian, complete with learning to speak and read Arabic, studying and following the Q’uran in depth, and raising their children in an Islamic lifestyle. For all intents and purposes, she has successfully become a Muslim! Truly an example of Assimilation.

I am beginning to have some of the same need to share certain thoughts, with my wife, she having moved to the East Coast. She and I can have good interchanges about Education, as career professionals performing similar tasks in similar settings; about our children and grandchildren, as parents and grandparents; and about our favorite sports teams especially the Denver Broncos and ACC-SEC-Big 12 basketball. We carefully avoid discussions of religion and politics as we are poles apart on these two. At that, there are times each day when something occurs that calls out for sharing, but texting just doesn’t effectively do it. Things like the first hummingbird to visit the feeder I hung, the sudden rainstorm that broke our lengthy dry spell, and lots of those little things which make up most of what we do on a daily basis.

And so I shall continue to attempt to gain some closure that will help me to more easily continue my travel along Life’s Highway (cliché’). I’m thinking that each of us is born into “an era” and that as it unfolds, little bits and pieces fall away. Deaths of persons who are part of that era including celebrities as well as close friends, major changes in lifestyle such as the rapid evolution of Technology, ecological events such as Climate Change, and tragically, the horrible human events occurring throughout the world—each era has its hallmarks. Nostalgia has become more significant as it represents a longing for that which was constant and comfortable in one’s own life, in the face of rapid contemporary change. A person’s basic core was built in a different era, and the ability to assimilate pales in the face of a newly-emergent need to quickly accommodate.

On a lighter note, another example of my reaction to change has to do with my age-related decline in physical abilities. As a golfer, I had always heard admiration expressed about a person who “shot his age”, that is, if a person was an elderly 69 and scored a 69, they were admired. We have a guy here who plays daily at age 94, and shot his age two years ago. I’ve decided that’s too much to expect, so I’ve changed the format—I try to shoot the temperature instead, if it’s 95 degrees outside I have a chance to meet the criterion! Maybe that’s why I’ve been described as “the worst player never to have won a major”! At one point I thought maybe I could get some sponsors so that I could have shirts and hats with fancy logos prominently displayed, such as “Mercedes Benz”, “Titleist”, but I gave up on that when only one septic tank company came forth. A commentary on my performance

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