Saturday, July 27, 2013

What's It All About?

What's it all about, Alfie? 
 Is it just for the moment we live? 
 What's it all about when you sort it out, Alfie? 
 Are we meant to take more than we give 
 Or are we meant to be kind?
"Alfie" written by Burt Bacharach and Hall David

When I first began writing this blog seven years ago, I chose a name to indicate the controversial waters in which I wished to swim.  I was in my mid 60's, a worldly traveler with some trash in my wake, and enough confidence to sink a ship.  Blogs were a relatively new social medium and promised new horizons to a writer past his prime who had yet to make much of a mark. I told myself I needed no audience bigger than a small circle of friends, and that it was enough to sort out my thoughts in public to better make sense of my existence. Sometimes they did.

Bloggers are an opinionated bunch and I have had enough idiosyncratic thoughts and views to fill 520 posts to date with words and photos.  Since Blogger provides analytics, I know my most popular writing was on the sin city of Pattaya, Richard Gombrich's controversial perspective on Buddhism, a faux farm in the hills of Thailand, and the ethics of internet piracy.  Only the piece on Pattaya received more than a thousand hits.  But I got enough comments from close friends and Facebook acquaintances to produce the illusion of readership.

Another reason for my blog was to tell the stories of my late life adventures to family and friends in a convenient forum rather than collective or individual letters or email.  Early on I learned that this was not personal enough for a child or too, and in recent years the breaking of many family ties made that goal illusive.  Despite the ease of internet communication, most of my old friends back in the states have drifted away.  With those that remain I trade posts and comments on Facebook which has become the go-to medium of social choice.

As I entered the era of elders, it occurred to me that I might make stabs at a user's manual for ageing.  This, however, required the conceit that I knew what I was doing and could make generalizations that the Baby Boomers on my tail might find useful.  But I'm as stupid and as blind now as when I turned 18, 21 and even 30.  And besides, my ability as a thinker has usually been to see differences (nitpick, as some would see it) rather than similarities.

I should add that I also remain mostly ignorant of the topics I picked to write about: religion, sex and politics.  I've said less about sex than the others because of my late father's injunction that "men should never kiss and tell."  But the fact that I've been married three times is revealing.  Of course there is more to relationships than sex, but it can really throw a monkey wrench into the mix. After forty-plus years of trying to sort out religion and religions, I know even less about the meaning of the words and the importance of the activities and beliefs they represent for living a life.  And politics, pshaw!  What else can you say besides the world is going to hell in a handbasket?  Even my expressions are out of date.

The compliments I've received for my writing have usually focused on my "honesty," or what to me have been confessions of failure in the assigned duties of life.  This has always been easy for me.  Many men dislike talking about themselves.  In the discussion groups to which I've belonged over the years, I have learned to provoke responses from others by relating my most personal details.  I wouldn't call this "honesty" because the worst memories invariably remain secret, and a good story can always sound better with little additions for dramatic effect.

 In May I wrote a three-part post on my life in and out of music.  And then the thoughts dried up.

When a friend encouraged me to continue writing, I told him "I think I've shot my wad."  This expression can cover a multitude of sins.  For me, it just meant that the urge to continue writing this blog had evaporated.  Facebook, and to a lesser extent Twitter (not to forget Line, the popular Asian app), now satisfy whatever need I have to express myself.

For a few weeks I've been wondering what to say as a swan song, or whether I should just let this blog die a natural (virtual) death (nothing disappears from the internet).

Last week I entered my 75th year (a friend from junior high school dislikes this way of describing our 74th birthday, but it's true).  Nan and I celebrated with a delightful three-day and two-night holiday in Singapore, an Asian capital I visited for the first time (checking it off on my to-do list after Hong Kong and Seoul).  It was a dual celebration because a few weeks ago Nan had graduated from university.  We viewed Singapore high up from the Skypark atop the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, the Singapore Flyer, and a cable car ride to Sentosa Island, and we walked enough around the city to accentuate the age gap between my young wife and I.  It's time to slow down, slowly.

This may be my last blog post, and then again it might not.  I'm not waiting for a final hurrah from the few readers that find me.  I love taking photos and posting them here as well as on Facebook and Flickr, and I'm on the lookout for a new DSLR camera. My photos have often allowed me a secondary way to comment on events for which words are not enough.  Today I think I'll leave Alfie and his dilemma (which I share) alone.