Making it up, part 2
With seven decades under me, I want the chance to reflect back on the past I’ve known and to imagine forward to what might yet be by learning from others – young and old, here and there, alike and different, artists and others.
The years I’ve lived have given me a many-layered foundation, built slowly over 70 years, an aggregate mix of success and acknowledgment, failure and loss, gaps and continuities. The foundation is a strong but supple underpinning that offers something steadier to stand on than I had when I was twenty, a ground for making and strengthening relationships, for continuing to make a living and a difference, for being curious, being mad, being silly, for listening, loving, thinking, writing, acting up, and continuing to dream.
I want to share what I’ve accumulated and see if it’s useful beyond myself. I want to use the past as a springboard for my curiosity and for new connections and ideas. I’d love to inspire others to do the same, to use the foundations we’ve built to make things better.
Get up, I tell myself. Get up! Let’s get going!
On turning 70, I became clearer than ever that my time is limited.
So, if not now…when?
I have so many questions.
What do we, who are 70 and beyond, do with the extra years that modern medicine and knowledge have given us? How do we mix past and present? How do we, as an ever-larger percentage of the population, answer these questions and make a difference today?
How is the nature of work changing? How is the economy around us changing? Can we be part of imagining a different future?
How can we live together with all our differences? What can we do to strengthen the common ground that seems to be getting lost?
What can we learn from artists’ experience of work, or of aging, or of the common good? How are artists adding to wider community conversations? What more can we do?
I want to provoke new attempts to find answers.
In an eighth decade, what patterns can I make? What new ways can I move? I’m still trying to change the world.
I want to use my old-fashioned, old-fogey ways and mix them up with sometimes hard-for-me-to-understand new ways: new technologies, new ideas about the social world, new understandings of the natural world.
I’m eager to bounce ideas around with younger people. I want to be a novice again.
I want to be a spur, a spark, l’ancienne terrible – though this personality type doesn’t really sound like me.
I’d love to figure out how to call myself. It seems we’re often asked for a few words to identify who we are. I’ve never had a good answer. So, at this point, am I . . .
A vintage instigator?
An antique inventor, rabble rouser, catalyst?
An always curious old codger? (Can women be old codgers?)
Or maybe, a seasoned listener and observer who’s been around the block – more than a few times?
I want to keep making it up.
I want time and a charge that asks me to go back to the little piles of notes and ideas left behind at times in my life, notes that are now stacking up in storage, to think about them one more time, to clean them out, pass them along, or at least recycle the paper.
Jonas Mekas, now 93, put it this way: “My own personal work was done in pieces. Now all those pieces are crying out to be completed. I’m obsessed with finishing them.”
The spirit of making it up – of life and work as an experiment – has run through my life from the start, from organizing marching majorettes in high school, to making art, creating an artist workshop at a television station, helping start formal and informal organizations, networks, and conversations, and, just last year, helping to create a new alumni-in-residence program at my college alma mater fifty years later.
I want to keep living an experiment, where the results are unknown and possibility is wide open.
Note: The first “Making It Up” was posted on November 28, 2016.