ELDER MUSIC: Ain’t it Funny…
A TGB READER STORY: A Perspective on Time

Some Questions, Some Answers and Some Information

Last Friday's post about Questions produced a few queries I can actually answer. Let's start with the life-after-death thread readers carried forward.

Gail asked,

”How do you feel when you read a posting like the one above? I’m rolling my eyes! I’m pretty sure you might not answer - and I understand.”

The “posting like the one above” Gail references is a story from Andrea Bonette about a supernatural experience of her father's. There was a mini-backlash from two or three other readers labeling Gail's comment rude.

I don't see it that way. She made her point and asked a question. Me? I've never experienced communication with a dead person and I don't spend a lot of time with events that cannot be proved.

The point of such stories, of course, is the hope that there is life after death, that we - our individual consciousness - survive in some recognizable form after we die. Generally, I don't believe that. Everyone else should believe whatever they like.

Adie van der Veen asked,

”Do you think back to the time you took a psilocybin trip? It made such an impact on you, especially around your fear of death. Do the memories help? Would you consider taking another trip...?”

What my “magic mushroom” trip in December 2017 did was allow me to feel, to a degree I had never felt before, one with the universe. Recently, reading physicist Alan Lightman's Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine, I realized his description of a transcendent experience describes my own better than I ever have – not literally, but certainly in spirit.

”After a few minutes, my world had dissolved into that star-littered sky. The boat disappeared. My body disappeared. And I found myself falling into infinity.”

“...I felt connected not only to the stars but to all of nature, and to the entire cosmos. I felt a merging with something far larger than myself, a grand and eternal unity, a hint of something absolute.”

“...after my experience in that boat...I understood the powerful allure of the Absolutes – ethereal things that are all encompassing, unchangeable, eternal, sacred. At the same time, and perhaps paradoxically, I remained a scientist. I remained committed to the material world.”

Like Lightman, I do not dismiss the experience but I am also fiercely connected to the material world, the measurable and provable.

Would I do it again? Certainly. But it's unlikely to happen. Working with a guide is expensive and if the experience has faded a bit, it is not gone.

dkzody asked,

”Ronni, you've not mentioned your son and grandson lately. Would love to hear how they are faring through the pandemic.”

For those who don't know, about two and a half years ago, as the result of a commercial DNA test, I was contacted by the son I gave up for adoption when I was 21 years old.

He, his wife and his six-year-old son live about a 45-minute drive from my home. We speak once a week and visit now and then. They are, like most of us, sheltering at home and are doing well. In fact, my grandson just learned how to ride a bicycle - no more training wheels.

Laurel asked, “Will Elder Music continue being posted on your site, or somewhere else?”

That Sunday column is written by Peter Tibbles, my friend who lives in Melbourne, Australia. After I die, the ten-plus years of his posts will remain available on this blog but new ones will not be added because – ahem - I won't be here to post them.

Peter is thinking over if he will start a blog of music columns and you, dear readers, will be the first to know what he decides.

Both dkzody and Elaine of Kalilily asked me to update and post the Elderbloggers List. Here is the story on that:

The Elderbloggers List is a collection of many blogs not necessarily about ageing but which are written by old people. For many years, I updated it regularly – deleting those that had disappeared from the web and adding new ones as I discovered them.

The problem now (and for the past two or three years) is that an update takes two or three or more weeks of my time. Every current link (hundreds) must be checked to see if they still exist or are still active.

New ones must be checked for literacy, interest, frequency of publishing and to eliminate any that are commercial in nature. More time. Then all the coding to make it look good and be functional.

What has happened with my diseases, accelerating in the past six months or so, is that I tire easily even without putting out much effort. So nowadays, I have about eight hours a day to accomplish everything most people (and me in the past) do in a full 16-hour day.

And, three or four times a week, I seem to need a midday lie-down for an hour. More time gone. Plus, in addition to the few useful hours I have in a day, even less gets done because I'm slower now too.

So, the Elderbloggers List saw its last update in 2005, and so it shall remain. You will find the list here and there is always a link to it under the header, Features, in the right sidebar of every page of this blog.

Terri asked,

”I have one question. Prior to this blog did you ever write or edit in your career? I ask because you are such a good writer. Ok. I lied, maybe two. Is Veronica your birth name?

Yes, Veronica is my birth name but I have always been called Ronni. The only time my mother ever used my full first name was when I was in trouble.

Beginning in 1995, for three years I was the first managing editor of cbsnews.com. For 30-odd years before that I wrote for television news and interview programs and some documentaries which is a whole different thing from writing for print.

But writing words to be spoken by hosts and interviewers greatly improved my prose writing.

What I aim for, in addition to being as engaging as possible, is clarity and (except in certain fiction and poetry), I am intolerant of ambiguity. What I deliberately borrowed from writing for television is that the words and paragraphs sound good aloud. I always “listen” to what I'm writing and when I've done it well, people should be able to “hear” the words in their minds as they read.

If you want to improve your writing, read, read and read – good and bad. It's all useful. And that is the sum total of what I know about writing.


Good Monday morning, Ronni --

How enjoyable to start the day and week with this collection of 'this and that.' Catching up and learning more about the past and present of your life is like sitting with a friend or family member with morning coffee and comfortably chatting before the mundane business of the week intrudes. A soothing interlude.

Glad to hear your grandson conquered his bike. That's a monumental time in life for many of us, with a launch towards independence that I recall coming with heady exuberance, although that independence may have been much more restricted today than it was 70 years ago.

It's hard to believe that your mushroom experience was three years ago; it feels much more recent to me. Lightman's words about losing himself in a dark starry sky resonate deeply with me. I spent many Texas nights in my youth on the ground looking up and watching that gentle movement, trying to imagine where it came from, where it was going, and what might be out there. You and other readers here may be following the travels of comet NEOWISE, named for the Near-Earth Object Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer space telescope that identified it earlier this year. It's incredible to me that it was on a trajectory that placed it as near as it got to the sun (which is still likely to have been vastly distant) early this month, and it's now heading back to its home in the outer solar system. I love the fact that it will come the closest to Earth this Wednesday, July 22-- my birthday! After that, it won't be back for almost another 7,ooo years. I'm going to try to get a glance of it at a small local observatory that was donated to our park system many years ago, but I may have already missed that window of opportunity.

My mother moved close to me during her last months. Often she would say: "ask me now"... but I never could think of anything. In the thirty years since she died, I've thought many times... "I wish I'd asked"... but she is gone and the questions remain.

I found a blog on your elder-blogger list written by a small-press publisher and multi-disciplinary artist. I was surprised that she lived in my city, and visited her studio to buy a book. She has become one of the persons I cherish most in my life. So there is but one more mitzvah, Ronni.

I'm grateful you had the transcendent trip, and hope you can summon its compelling resonance now—that glimpse of a universe far more magnificent than our little planet, and the awareness that we contain part of that magnificence within ourselves.

I do, indeed, "hear" your words and always have. It never before occurred to me that such "hearing" might further explain the popularity of your writing. Super well done, Ronni!

Ronni I was glad to read of your son (and grandson) as I wondered too, but didn’t know if it was appropriate to ask. But a couple weeks ago I was enjoying the Ronni Bennett Timeline again, and was wondering about your brother? Is he still with us, living on his boat still? Do you two keep in touch? Looking at those earlier photos, you two shared a strong resemblance.

Wonderful post! As always, I hear the words in my mind and enjoy your writing. As to the spirit part of things, my philosophy is best explained in a song you could find on YouTube: Iris DeMent singing “let the mystery be.”

Ronni, I suspect that in addition to the excellent content, your writing talent is another reason why so many of us faithfully read your blog. The best writers have a distinct, recognizable "voice" that comes through in their prose. It is almost like you can hear them speaking directly to you. Your voice speaks out clearly, succinctly and eloquently in each blog post. I think that's a large part why so many of us readers, having never met you, feel we know you. And care about you.

Sure wish you were writing now for our local news channels. Oy vey. Such terrible, incoherent writing. Poor grammar, too. Sometimes the news anchors will stumble and try to correct the bad writing that they are speaking, knowing full well that it's incorrect.

Thank you for the updates on your family and on the elder blog. I know you are doing your very best to stay here with us and keep us informed, and I would hate to add any extra work to what you already do. I appreciate all that you post, and as for the elder blog, we will just have to work through those blogs ourselves.

Hoping it is still okay to ask a question, I have one. When a person I care about dies, I have always appreciated being told about a cause/organization/agency/whatever that that person was committed to or worked with or cared about. It felt good to be able to make a donation in memory of the person. So, I am asking: is there something that is important to you that I could make a donation to? Thank you.

On another note, regarding experiences after a person has died. I was working in a Chicago suburb and would go often on a weekend to visit my mother who lived on the farm where I was raised. It was a 2 hour drive. When I would leave to drive back to work, going down the driveway, I would look toward the picture window and my mother would be standing there, waving. When my Mom was 92, she died and after the week of her death and funeral, I was driving down the driveway on my way back to work and out of habit looked toward the picture window and there Mom was, standing there and waving. Whether it was real or I imagined it, I have always cherished that memory and can still visualize her in her turtleneck and pick sweater.

Correction: pink sweater.

Hi Ronnie,

Just wanted to comment re: old (age)bloggers and "reading"!
My whole family, individually, a wife, 2 daughters and a son are (or have been) prolific readers. Yet, I rarely read a "book", although I spend most of my time at the computer -- readin' ...

Not sure if I am the "oldest blogger" who reads yours or not -- but I am up there near the top at 95 years and 9 months -- with a late October birthday comin' up. The wife will be 92 a month later -- and in-between, in early November we will celebrate (?) our 70th!!!

You can find me -- cogitatin' about the soup served at our senior residence; or the irrational issue of Trump vs Fauci; or a 24-year Mexico retirement; or "quien sabe" (we studied our Spanish a lot in our hometown of San Miguel de Allende); or finally -- delvin' in to past careers after graduatin' from the Naval Academy in the U.S. Navy, or my 30 years at IBM.

But, in reasonably good health after 2 heart ops plus a "cow's valve" inserted and a couple of operations -- back and that male thingy -- never have come close to or thought about dyin', yet. Almost flew into the tower, while learnin' to fly (that was after the future wife had kept me out until 4am.

Good luck, if that is an appropriat thing to say, as you face your future. I do enjoy your "writin'" -- as I do my "computer-readin'". God be with you, ole gal ...

So appreciate reading your and everyone's take on everything! And thank heavens for the plethora of amazing books in the world. When I was maybe 12 or so, an old woman who had helped me rescue a dog stuck in a snow bank and I became friends. Once, of an afternoon in her living room, she said, "Books are good friends to me." I liked and trusted her so much, I knew there was something to what she was saying, but, at that time, couldn't understand at all what she meant by those words. Wouldn't I love to share a cup of tea and talk with her now!

You come up with the nicest posts, Ronni. Whatever the subject they are always fun to read and so well redacted. At the end of this one you say “if you want to improve your writing, read, read and read…” I try to read more books in English than French but whenever I write a comment here or a post on my blog I am not satisfied with my English. I always regret posting them as I think my English is not good enough, the comments sound stilted and not well constructed.
English is my 3rd language – as French is my native tongue, followed by taking Italian and living there a while, then learning English when I was taking Russian.. Now that I am older it seems that when I think about an unusual word it comes in French first then I have to look it up in Google translate – I think that it must happen to many foreign speakers, or is it just old age? Reading your posts is a joy as you write so spontaneously and easily. Well here we go, I was going to say a word about your posts and the word came in French first as “authentique” so on Google translate it said “genuine.” Voila!

Thanks for this edition, Ronni, and particularly for the great quote regarding a sense of merging with the universe. Why we should experience ourselves as separate from it is one of the great--and maddening--koans.

About writing for print vs. for recitation: I'm one of the few people I know who for the most part think the true voice of the author is most faithfully reproduced by silent reading on the page. We're in an era that promotes declamation. There are really good arguments for it. But, with the exception of some humor (poetry AND prose) I continue to feel that a reciting voice is--even when it's the author--a middleman that separates me from the direct communication of the word on the page to my brain. I don't have a lot of company in this, though.

Have you watched Chris Wallace's recent interview of Trump? My takeaway was (a) Hair Furor is truly impervious; and (b) he's scarily persuasive--his oral delivery inspires confidence, for those disposed to believe him, which is really scary.

I see my feeble blogging attempt is still on your list. :-) Thank you. I just write how I feel and thankfully Microsoft alerts me of misspells.

I will miss you as will all others. Will do a lot of re-reading I imagine.

I don’t think I’ll continue with the music column.
I have seen with my own eyes the amount of work Ronni puts into producing each day’s column. I retired from the computer industry after 50 years and it and it seems to me that I’d be just going back to work, and I certainly don’t want to do that.
Having done this for more than 10 years and about 600 columns I wonder if I have anything to add that won’t bore you all.
However, you never know. I might become inspired and find some easy software and start again.

Dear Ronni: You have aimed for clarity in your writing and you have consistently hit the mark. It’s what I love best about this blog. That and the sensibility—or maybe simply good common sense—of what you say. You say what you mean and you mean what you say. No pretensions. No ambiguity. The title of your blog says it straight and even though I absolutely hate change, I know that I must accept it: time does indeed go by.

Thank you Ronni for your response. Ditto for me in not using my formal name. Though pretty, Veronica and Theresa have been marred by long ago using them when we were in trouble or for me a strict teacher.

Thanks for sharing your work history with writing. Somehow I knew this wasn't your first rodeo.

Lastly, enjoyed the links from Saturday's column. Especially appreciated a Brit's take on Trump, the two young guys listening to Jolene -- really fun, and the origins and history of discrimination.

I identified with how you write: aiming for clarity, and learning from television. Needless to say - but I'll say it - you succeed!
You wrote "I always “listen” to what I'm writing and when I've done it well, people should be able to “hear” the words in their minds as they read."
I think people understand much better that way - perhaps because we grew up with TV and radio. I do that too (when I write) - keeping sentences short, continually editing. And I use commas, to aid in the "listening".

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