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After the Golden Age by Alvin Schwartz
Giving a glimpse into the formative years of comics and beyond.

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AFTER THE GOLDEN AGE for 12/25/2006
Vol. 2, #195

Problems Crossing the Border

About a month ago, I turned ninety. Actually, I was kind of surprised that it came so fast, but it did seem as though I were crossing a line somewhere. Pouring through today's NY Times, there were several articles on aging, none of which sounded very positive. The gist of it all was that if you don't have a lot of daughters or daughters-in-law, chances are awfully good that you'll wind up in a nursing home. You just don't have the same mind and body anymore. You have to watch your step to avoid breaking those now fragile bones, as my friend and colleague, Arnold Drake recently did and is currently bedridden and recovering from a fall. Note that I've known Arnold since the very early fifties when he joined DC after the war and the GI Bill. But basically, whatever the pressures of age, and Arnold isn't even halfway through his eighties, you have to keep your mind exercised or it'll dump you. And he's doing plenty of that. And managing to get himself around like a man half his age. For which I envy him, since I'm pretty much tethered to home these days. I had to skip the last San Diego Con, and probably will not make it to the NY Con late this February (except that I'll be represented both by my publisher and my images, films of my presence at previous cons taken by those superb camera manipulators, Mike Catron and Marc Svensson.)

The other thing the Times articles emphasized, was keeping your mind in shape. Well, I am certainly keeping that busy. This is the year when I have two new books in print, AN UNLIKELY PROPHET and A GATHERING OF SELVES, the sequel. You see, my wife and I have this wonderful Fortress of Solitude in an isolated farming region about forty miles south of Ottawa where our only neighbors are cows, as I've explained before. Over the past few years I've been learning quantum physics from books and from visiting friends from all sorts of strange places, learning it because I think the quantum approach marks a major shift in the scientific paradigm, and opens the way to a more metaphysical and broader human vision. It has certainly ended for me the reductionist tyranny of the Newtonian/Cartesian approach to life and put me in a place where I no longer find myself standing at the end of things, but fully embroiled in the seething center. Putting it broadly, the search for answers to all things had reached a point where analysis, of smaller and smaller bits, was beginning to reveal less and less, so that at the level of the electron and the whole train of quirks and quiffets in its wake seemed to come to a dead end since what was really going on seemed out of accord with the fact that at a certain level of smallness, for example, there's no such thing as heat. Go up a stage, to a slightly more complex level, and suddenly, there's heat. Where does that come from? Obviously the reductionists of the old science don't know. Heat is an emergent property. What's that? Don't look for an answer in trying to get smaller and smaller. You only find that even the electron disappears into a cloudy indeterminateness when you go that far.

Einstein set up with his colleagues a thought experiment trying to resolve the problem (the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen experiment) but couldn't test it. But finally, a French team developed the techniques that established the existence of instantaneous signaling between electrons at opposite ends of the universe which, for one thing, demonstrated a state known as "non-locality", meaning that everything is in fact right here and now. Locality doesn't matter because everything is local. Or non-local. Take your choice. It's the same thing. We're not just beyond the relativity of space and time; we're trenching on the impossible. And as a teacher of mine once remarked: "Since the impossible exists, and you think that's impossible, then you're impossible." A lot of other things have been happening to turn things upside down and inside out, like the work of Ilya Prigogine, demonstrating how the chaos of what he terms "dissipative structures" can lead to new forms of order.

Put more in terms of the way we live our daily lives, the possibility of "order" or meaning is always at hand, and once having learned that through observing our own experience by refusing to let those boxes we live in deter or discourage us, old age itself takes on meaning and is not the winding down of a momentary energy to which we bind ourselves just because the current consensus seems to have been going that way.

I work about eight to ten hours. I have a stack of new books to chew my way through. I am finishing, reshaping, restarting three new books which are expressions of metareality rather than fiction which I'll explain next time. And I still drive, so I can get around, mostly within a local radius of some fifty miles.Great for visiting doctors. But otherwise, getting somewhere, I haven't the leg strength to navigate very far, and have to deal with physical problems which keep me from spending nights away from home where I'm prepared with the various props and supports and pills--don't forget the pills--that allow me to enter on a new day in familiar and carefully shaped surroundings. My wife is the same. We manage it together and hope to continue doing so for a while yet.

Now, I can probably continue to travel this road for quite a way, as far out as anyone has ever gone who might be reading this column, but that's for other occasions and other questions. Right now, I'm trying to suggest that as we travel through this new aspect of our consciousness, we have to grasp its broader implications, realizing that debility and mortality are necessarily aspects of a greater whole which, at this stage, have to be learned, just as we learned to find our own meaning in stages such as childhood, adolescence, maturity, and now this apparent decline. Not quite. The decline of previous stages, certainly. But the continuation of a process that involves the unfolding of the universe from a broader, not a diminished perspective. Nothing about our passage through this life can be regarded as a diminution or the whole thing becomes a bad joke. Meaningless. A negative. But to repeat our friend Hegel's wise words: There is no absolute negative. Only the negative of a particular positive.

More next week, or, if I don't make it back that soon, watch for it. I'm moving to a different rhythm these days.

-- Alvin

<< 11/27/2006 | 12/25/2006 | 03/26/2007 >>

Discuss this column with me at my Round Table.

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