Methuselah's Daughter

Musings of an immortal being

Monday, December 30

Well, Colorado proved to be… interesting. There is always a bit of discomfort, even dislocation when I meet up with old friends after a prolonged period of time. Mr. And Mrs. Professor had long ago lost any doubts they had regarding my veracity; however, it is one thing to accept the reality that is my existence intellectually, it is quite another to have to face it in the flesh. Despite everything they know about me they still expected to see a woman of some fifty years at their door when I arrived. The Professor was simply quiet. Mrs. Professor cried. All in all it went much better than other reunions I have had.

The problem with the youngest grandson is not something I can straighten out without a great deal of time and effort. Sometimes people insist on self-destruction and my general rule is to get out of their way and hope they do not take too many innocent bystanders with them. If I had met this young man under other circumstances I might have let him go on his merry way, unless I could figure out a quiet, painless method to put him down for the good of the community. Yes, it really is that bad. Since he is the grandson of good friends I feel compelled to at least attempt to salvage him, and of course, he has not hurt anyone. Yet.

I wrote earlier regarding youth, and how it is both the great engine of social and scientific advancement, while simultaneously being the wellspring of violence and destruction. It has been my experience (this will not be a surprise to anyone, I assure you) that all young people go through this wrenching of the soul- a time when all that was normal and safe and secure is called in to question, when all that is held forth as wisdom is rejected. Most go through this in a mild form- they take on new fads, some of which eventually become the foundations of new culture; they rebel against the authority of their parents and teachers. Then they grow up and move on. For some, this period is more traumatic, either due to life circumstance, or the cruel genetic lottery that bestows beauty of form and quickness of mind upon some and not others. Most of these also eventually grow up and move on. Each of the above groups carries those formative years forward with them as the foundations of their lives, with all the attendant scars, joys, fears and loves accumulated. Finally, there are those who begin this titanic struggle that accompanies the transition from pre-sentient youth to young adulthood, and begin a downward spiral from which they cannot seem to escape. These individuals will hit bottom where they will either bounce, or break.

That third category is where Grandson fits in. He is eighteen, intelligent; alienated from his peers with affectations of anti-social behavior that provide cover for the immense emotional pain he carries. I would not call him unattractive, rather his own internal demons show through- he is unkempt and overweight. I met him during my visit to Colorado and the impact was almost painful for both of us. I can see the monster inside him, and my presence merely added to his own suffering- he is terribly shy around women, and even more acutely so in the presence of particularly attractive women. He is a disaster waiting to happen.

The Professor disappointed me when he suggested, “All the boy really needs is the attentions of a pretty girl…” though I understand that what he really means is that he does not care how I help, so long as I help. Still, the implication was simplistic and unworthy of such a sharp mind. Mrs. Professor was more tactful, and more precise: “He needs someone to show him that he really does care about other people, and about himself.” In any case, what he needs from me is something more than can be delivered over a weeklong visit, so it seems I will be moving.

Friday, December 20

My private line rang the other day. Less than a dozen people know that number, and all of them know not to call unless it is supremely important. When that number rings it means something is wrong.

Just for purposes of clarity, let me explain. Throughout my thirty-five-or-so centuries, I have occasionally chosen to confide in people the true nature of my existence. In the last thirty years or so I have actually provided those people with a method to contact me if they ever feel I can help them in any way. I owe these people, they have accepted me and helped me in ways both large and small, and in every case I hold their friendship to be a precious thing.

Still- I seldom meet with my confidants. Once I move on in my ceaseless change of identity the contacts necessarily become less frequent and less personal. This protects me, but it is also a mercy to them. Despite an intellectual acceptance of the reality of my existence, most cannot truly deal with my agelessness. Better to correspond via letters and the annual phone call.

But the personal line is my concession to any who accept me on my own terms. If you need me, call.

The Professor (a suitably descriptive, yet obscure euphemism) called last Sunday night. I met him and his significant partner (Mrs. Professor- a grand and enlightened educator in her own light) in 1962. We have not met in person since 1975. When I realized who was on the line my first thought was that somebody was about to die, but the first few words from the Professor’s mouth dispelled that concern. Both of them are nearing seventy now and the Professor wanted my input on their youngest grandson, a boy of seventeen whose path was headed decidedly in the wrong direction.

After a long discussion, I booked a flight to Colorado.

There is more to this story, but I need to see how the next few days unfold before I proceed. I beg your patience.

Saturday, December 14

I am not a student of history as it is taught in the schools around the world. People in whom I have confided over the centuries have universally found this hard to reconcile, but that has always been the result of their own knowledge of the past. When one studies history one is afforded the luxury of collecting all the perspectives of far-flung individuals and events. For those actually living in the times being studied, the only perspective immediately available is the one before their very eyes. Given the state of communications technology prior to the telegraph is it any wonder that one might be ignorant of what transpired in other parts of the world at any given time? Of course not.

I have lived through a few “momentous” times, but mostly I slaved away in some obscure corner of the world while events transpired far, far away and I was as ignorant of them as the normal people around me. I spent a large portion of the first half of my life as a slave, either literally or virtually. In an odd way it afforded me a level of protection, almost anonymity as I glided through one decade after another for no one affords much attention to a slave. I always managed to move on before anyone noticed that the master’s concubine never seemed to get any older.

These days I spend my efforts in more productive ways. I am a teacher by choice, and wealthy enough to teach where I please. I am quite adept at reading the financial markets, identifying trends towards peaks and stepping in long enough to make a tidy sum. The recent dotcom madness served me quite well in a number of respects, particularly in allowing me to dive in and out of certain companies as they rose as well as leveraging my technology positions to attempt to redress one of my most pressing problems: identity. I still have not found an acceptable solution to that, but I am by nature quite patient.

Wednesday, December 11

“Nazi Germany taught us that sometimes you have to stop talking peace and just start dropping bombs.” If only this were the case. It is simple in retrospect to conclude that such a lesson both presented itself and was understood; however, in my experience human beings are quite adept at shading the lessons of history to accommodate whatever ideology holds sway with them at the moment. Furthermore it is seldom so clear in the thick of events just when one has crossed that line.

Obviously I am referring to the current situation in the Middle East. There are diametrically opposed ideologies in the West regarding the correct method of dealing with threats both real and perceived and these positions are being shouted from the various vantage points of punditry and demagoguery for all to hear. In the meantime there is (as there has always been) a more centrist core of leadership attempting to both navigate through the current crisis and simultaneously avoid giving either of the polarized opponents in the western ideology conflict anything to latch on to as casus belli. I am certain that the people involved would be grateful for the opportunity to leap ahead fifty or one hundred years to see what the proper course should have been.

Unfortunately for all concerned my expertise is limited to human interaction first and history as a distant second.

What I can offer is a carefully crafted circumlocution: it has been my experience that no war is inevitable until it begins, but some wars simply must be fought. There is always an option to avoid war. Compromise, capitulation, surrender; it is simply a matter of what one is willing to do to avoid war. Whether or not such actions are desirable or even possible depends upon the basic nature of the conflict and the cultural imperatives of the potential combatants. When one side is willing to bargain and the other side is bent on total victory what exactly is there to discuss? Sometimes it is the blatant display of the willingness to fight that brings the other side to the bargaining table- no rational nation/state launches a war they do not expect to win. If the potential opponent appears formidable it is likely that the belligerent party may choose another path. This is the “If you desire peace, arm for war” philosophy, and it does have its place.

War is an immensely complex cultural interaction, one that humanity has been practicing and perfecting for millennia. Even in its earliest manifestations it served multiple purposes, such as the expansion of territory, the mixing of gene pools, redistribution of wealth, testing of social structures and more. War has always left cultural change in its wake and the results are usually, though not universally, to the long-term good. When the results are not to the long-term good war is usually, though not universally, the correcting mechanism.

So, where does the Middle East fit in to all this? I noted earlier that we are embroiled in the midst of a true paradigm shift that has been on going for approximately a century. Many very wise people saw the Cold War as the defining issue; however, it is my contention that the Cold War was nothing more than a side issue, such as a sporting event where two teams must play to see which will move on to the next level of competition. In the midst of that competition both sides facilitated the growth of other combatants whose driving ideologies were far divergent from those of the two major Cold War powers. What was seen as a victory in the Cold War was merely gaining to opportunity to attempt to put to rest the vestiges of religious/intolerance motivated aggression. What makes this issue slightly more pressing than it might have been is the threat of so-called Weapons of Mass Destruction and the world dependence on oil reserves located on what could easily become major battlefields.

Interesting times indeed.

Monday, December 9

There never was a Golden Age, though every generation seems convinced that there was one. Each successive wave of humanity is burdened by childhood memories of less stressful times and tales of great things done by those before them. Even in the most primitive societies, where existence is literally hand-to-mouth and children are ritually pressed in to service in the pursuit of mere survival, children lack the cognitive resources required to fully comprehend that struggle. In the later years of their lives they usually remember childhood as being far freer than the current circumstances. They are wrong- they simply could not take the true measure of the challenges life presented when they were young.

I envy the youthful, and not with any sort of bitterness. I do not suffer from the age induced resentfulness of quicker minds unchecked by accumulated wisdom for my mind is as sharp, for that matter sharper, as it was when I first became aware of my own existence. To be blunt about it I was not terribly bright when I was young. That was a time when I was most like all others around me, convinced that my time in this world was short, devoted to the pursuit of simple pleasures and simple needs. In those days I was foolish, and it was delightful. Young people are foolish; they take silly risks and ill-advised paths. They ignore the counsel of their elders. They shake the foundations of the known to cast aside the encrusted detritus of what is common wisdom. They are an indispensable part of humanity’s ceaseless quest for knowledge. They bring new light to old domains and cast off the tyranny of what-has-always-been. They also sow death and destruction and despair, but in the end the balance is mostly to the good.

Sunday, December 8

I do not care about politics. In my experience any single election or coup or coronation or revolution is of little long-term consequence. Truly, elections and coronations tend to inch forward towards some distant goal whereas coups and revolutions often are merely minor setbacks. There are exceptions of course- in the science of humanity progress is usually measured by the exceptions encountered. I lived through several of those exceptions, “interesting times” according to the popular misquotation of an ancient Chinese curse, and I can say with authority that the current situation simply does not qualify.

It is simplistic to see the events of the past ten decades as full of separate defining moments, each ushering in a new paradigm; however, from my somewhat unique perspective the century just ended was merely the beginning of the final reconciliation between the eastern and western world. This began with the collapse of the Caliphate and was exacerbated by the rise of the oil-based energy economy and the solidification of the western model of what currently passes for political and cultural liberalism. The Cold War standoff between the warped pseudo-socialist despotism of the USSR and western style Capitalism served to pause the process and in turn allowed certain pressures to escalate; however, things are now proceeding forward in a predictable fashion. The tools and the numbers are modern, the pace is accelerated, but the process is the same. Come back in one hundred years and the results should be… intriguing.

See? I have a cruel streak.

Friday, December 6

It is hard to write like this. I have spent so long making certain that I do not draw undo attention to myself that to suddenly speak clearly and simply, citing my own experience in unambiguous terms in such a public forum... it is a novel experience for me. That is saying quite a lot for one who has spent decades the way one might spend a pleasant summer’s day.

Call me a liar, or a spinner of fictions, or delusional. Hurl invective if it will make your worldview more secure. I have been stoned, whipped, drowned, burned, banned… suffice it to say that with this share of sticks and stones behind me there is nothing that mere words can do to bring anguish to my heart.

I am not here to make grand pronouncements. I cannot make the world a better place. I possess no magic, no otherworldly plans. I have nothing but a vast encyclopedia of experience with people. Nothing more.

There are many things to be said, many tales to be told. But who listens?