For the benefit of my fellow geezers out there who may not be aware of it, May is OLDER AMERICANS MONTH (not to be confused with NATIONAL SENIOR CENTER MONTH (September) or NATIONAL ACCORDION MONTH (June). Accordionly, May you and I bask in the recognition which is due us for living long enough to pass along our well-earned wisdom to those who don’t want to hear it.

To be sure, there is also a slight  drawback about old age: there’s not much future in it….but otherwise, it’s not a bad time to be alive. At any rate, it beats the alternative — or so they say (as if “they” have experienced said alternative).  On the flip side, there are many timely quotes on the age-old subject of age, so let’s put on our reading glasses and see if we can make heads or tails of some of them:

If  I’d known I was going to live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself. –Anonymous

An archaeologist is the best husband any woman can have: the older she gets, the more interested he is in her. –Agatha Christie

Age does not diminish the extreme disappointment of having a scoop of ice cream fall from the cone. –Jim Fiebig

Millions long for immortality who don’t know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon. –Susan Ertz

Old age is like a plane flying through a storm. Once you’re aboard, there’s nothing you can do. –Golda Meir

Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional. –Chili Davis

You’re only as old as the girl that you feel. –Groucho Marx

Time may be a great healer, but it’s a lousy beautician. –Anonymous

If you worry, you die. If you don’t worry, you also die. So why worry? –Mike Horn

I was going to use that last quote to close with the song DON’T WORRY, BE HAPPY, but on the occasion of the birthday (May 10, 1899) of the never-grows-old Fred Astaire, this song and dance make me happy to change my tune:





“Beauty is truth, truth beauty — that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”
–John Keats, from ODE ON A GRECIAN URN

On this day in February, 399 BC (according to occurred the fateful trial of the famed Grecian philosopher Socrates, of whom it is said that he didn’t put anything in writing during his lifetime — or even afterward, for that matter. This might lead one to think he was either paranoid or illiterate. By all odes, however, he was neither — otherwise his life/trial/death-by-hemlock would have earned him no esteem….and in theory, the following quotes attributed to Socrates might have been not only recorded by, but credited to, Plato (as well as others Greek to me):

Wisdom begins in wonder.

The unexamined life is not worth living.

To find yourself, think for yourself.

By all means, marry. If you get a good wife, you’ll become happy; if you get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher.

I am not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world.

But why should Plato and a few of his fellow G(r)eeks get all the credit for handing down what Socrates supposedly said? I may not be quite as ancient as they, but I go back far enough to be able to confide with the utmost confidence that Socrates never denied saying the following:

Wisdom begins in wonder….and ends the same way.

There’s no fool like an old fool. (On the other hand, some of us “old fools” prefer to think of ourselves as misanthropically eccentric seniors.)

It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness. (Or, you could just pay your electric bill on time.)

My wife would talk to a wooden Indian. (That’s why I keep a wooden Indian around the house.)

All’s well that ends well. (Well, I don’t know about that….but I suppose if it was good enough for the doomed Socrates, it’s good enough for the likes of Shakespeare and mistermuse.)





Today, we shall consider that
Mirror which we call truth,
When we see that where we’re at
Is years past the face of youth.

Now, truth can be a revelation,
Or in the cards we cash;
Truth may deal in hesitation,
Or may come in a flash.

Far be it from me to tell you
What you should/should not believe.
Let’s just say you would do well to
Neither youth, nor self, deceive.


I tend to be drawn more to the wisdom of those who question everything than to “accepted” wisdom, since no one knows everything — no one I know and trust, that is. But what of God, who (I was taught) does know everything. As an American, how could I not trust God? The proclamation IN GOD WE TRUST is all-inclusively bannered on our country’s legal tender –which, if you stop to think, seems an odd bearer for it, given the admonishment that money is the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10).

Be that as it may, the thing about God is like the thing about truth — exactly whose God, whose truth are we talking about? To paraphrase the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan, you’re entitled to your own God, your own truth — but not your own facts. If you take the discrepant God of divergent religions for a fact, how can a fact divided against itself stand?  Aren’t we left with the logic that no deity conceived by humans has a basis in fact? But you knew that …. right?

I don’t believe in any religion’s God (which isn’t the same as not believing in a Creator), but if I did, why would I want to take the life of, or coerce, a man of a different faith — both of our faiths are, after all, only fallible beliefs. Better to take the measure of human folly, as observed and recorded by those who have questioned everything:

The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunk man is happier than a sober one.  –George Bernard Shaw

If absolute power corrupts absolutely, where does that leave God?  –George Deacon

I don’t pray because I don’t want to bore God.  –Orson Welles

When I was a kid, I used to pray every night for a new bicycle. Then I realized that the Lord doesn’t work that way, so I stole one and asked Him to forgive me.  —Emo Phillips

Religion, n. A daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to Ignorance the nature of the Unknowable.  –Ambrose Bierce (THE DEVIL’S DICTIONARY)

Many a long dispute among divines may be thus abridged: It is so. It is not so. It is so. It is not so.  –Ben Franklin 

Well, you could become a Southern Baptist. I mean, instead of having to obey the Pope, you could just obey your husband.  –Arianna Huffington

The only thing that stops God from sending a second flood is that the first one was useless.  –Nicolas Chamfort

When I told the people of Northern Ireland that I was an atheist, a woman in the audience stood up and said, “Yes, but is it the God of the Catholics or the God of the Protestants in whom you don’t believe?”  –Quentin Crisp

I too much respect the idea of God to make it responsible for such an absurd world.  –Georges Duhamel




I’ve read a ton of books in my time — mostly fiction in my long-ago youth; mostly non-fiction in my dotage: biographical/autobiographical, historical and philosophical (including religious thinking, which, forgive me, covers a multitude of sins). Some of this reading has been for pure enjoyment and/or information, the rest for seeking answers to existential questions; but I suspect that almost all of it has been (consciously or not) a means of seeking to understand why people (including myself) are what they are. Although the old adage “seek and you shall find” has led to many eureka moments over the years, I’d never found a book that gave me “a whole new understanding of public discourse”* in the way that a book called MORAL POLITICS (2nd edition) does.

It should be said at the outset that the title of the book (by cognitive linguist George Lakoff) doesn’t do it justice. Books about politics (moral or otherwise) rarely dig deep into why people are what they are….furthermore, this book is about much more than politics. The book’s subtitle, HOW LIBERALS AND CONSERVATIVES THINK, expands the sense of it, but again is about much more. It concerns not only how liberals and conservatives (and libertarians and moderates and others) think, but WHY they think how they think (they, of course, includes us — you and I). Seen In context, politics is but one public stage for the larger human drama (comedy?) in which we all play a part….in which we all ARE a part.

I’d love to quote extensively from MORAL POLITICS, but that wouldn’t be kosher, would it? Instead, here’s a sampling of Part and Chapter titles, as well as several brief quotes from the book, to give an idea of the concepts that may take you, the potential reader, past where you’re at — If you are up to questioning hand-me-down mindsets and want the real “inside story” (and who, I ask with jaundiced eye, doesn’t have a passion for moving beyond received wisdom):

Part II: Moral Conceptual Systems

Experiential Morality
Keeping the Moral Books
Strict Father Morality
Nurturant Parent Morality

Part III: From Family-Based Morality to Politics

Moral Categories in Politics

Part IV: The Hard Issues

Social Programs and Taxes
Two Models of Christianity

Part VI: Who’s Right? And How Can You Tell?

Raising Real Children
The Human Mind
Basic Humanity


People who “deviate” from the tried and true path arouse enormous anger because they threaten the identities of those who follow traditional “straight and narrow” paths, but also because they are seen as threats to the community.

The Bible, in itself and without interpretation, can say nothing at all about the kind of politics one should have. It is only through Strict Father and Nurturant Parent interpretations of the Bible that one is led to a conservative or liberal religious politics.

Libertarians provide a very interesting challenge to the study of variations on a central model. Libertarians see themselves as forming a separate political category, neither liberal or conservative, but something unto itself. Analysis….suggests that their view of themselves is not entirely accurate.

The fact that libertarians and political liberals both strongly advocate civil liberties is a superficial similarity. They do so for very different reasons, out of different moral impulses, with a very different spirit. Though two steps away from mainline conservatism, libertarians are conservatives in three very important respects: (1) Their concern with noninterference by the government comes directly out of conservatism. (2) They preserve primary conservative moral priorities: self-discipline, self-reliance, and individualism. (3) They do not give priority to the values of Nurturant Parent morality: empathy, nurturance, interdependence, fairness, and responsibility for others.

*From a blurb on the book’s back cover quoting the late sociologist Robert Bellah (book is available on Amazon and elsewhere).