I am at peace with growing older. An editor once warned me never to write too much about getting older, younger people and book buyers will not want to know anything about it. Fortunately, I have not found that to be true. My readers range from the 20's to the 70's and I am happy to have them all.
I have often tried to explain to my younger friends the liberating aspect of growing older, but I sense they don't grasp it or perhaps, buy it. It was Joseph Campbell who put it well: "One great thing about growing old is that nothing is going to lead to anything. Everything is of the moment.”
This is profoundly true for me. I have one thing to lose, and it is enormous – my love for and with Maria. I have nothing to fear in the past and nothing I do or write or photograph will lead to much of anything in the future. I am not Grandma Moses, I do not expect to get discovered in the coming years and vault to fame and riches.
Only I will confess that it was only in the past year or so that I really came to believe this is so, that I let go of those other kinds of dreams.
A part of being public in America these days is being loved, a part is being attacked. Like night and day, one now goes with the other. There is something schizophrenic about it, there is something challenging and grounding about it, once you see its inevitability.
I am finally learning what it means to be free. I have nothing much to lose, nothing much to gain. I can think as I wish. I have nothing to fear from anyone, nothing to want from anyone. Nothing is going to lead to anything but now.
Earlier this morning, I wrote about my gnawing sense that America is suddenly for sale, including some of its most elemental parts and values and pieces. It was only a few seconds before somebody wrote to say I was "sickening." I replied, I thanked her for her thoughtful comments.
That is where we are in America. It is "sickening" to think out loud.
The truth is, the privilege of my lifetime is being who I am, and I am just beginning to know who I am and accept it. I have no interests in joining the pundit class, they are doing enough hard on their own. But I do think of what precisely the role of the artist is in troubled times.
Toni Morrison wrote a famous manifesto about this some years ago, she said troubles times are "precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal." It is critical, she wrote, not to surrender to malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge, even wisdom. The same is true for writing and art.
I believe in truth and I believe in words and feelings, and I think all of those things heal. In a world where ideas can barely live before they are smothered in anger and need, I think my role is to remind people that there is light and color in the world. Not to lecture, but to speak when something is on my mind.
And that it is okay to think for oneself and to give voice to your thoughts.
When something is on my mind, and I do not speak, then I am no longer free, and that is a kind of death, a malevolence all of its own. When I become afraid to speak, then I am gone.
My friends often tell me – Maria, too – that I am one of those people who will get hauled out of bed at night and shot when dictators rule. That seems a little dramatic to me, my writing falls far short of revolutionary or threatening. It is difficult to imagine that anyone will find me that important.
But it is true that writers and artists are the first to go. Take Red to a nearby sheep farm and throw him over the fence.
But that all seems dark and somewhat hysterical to me, we are not there yet, we are far from there, and unlike many of the people I know, I do not think we are not drifting towards Armageddon but instead heading for one of the great political conflicts in the history of our country.
I wish for a leader who emerges who rises above division and ideology and truly cares about people, the vulnerable as well as the rich, the content and the left behind, and who is committed to finding common and healing ground rather than dividing and angering us.
History tells me that there is such a man or woman out there, and he or she will not be a slave of the left or the right, but a true servant of the people, and warrior for the voiceless and the young.
I write for today. The future does not belong to me, I have had my time, and my life is in the moment. The young will have their revolution, they always do. They are the future.
I do believe I will see her.
She is coming through, I can hear her song. Hallelujah.