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50/50 Fall 2008, Exercise #8: Letter of Persuasion

Letter to a young homosexual

Dear much younger self,

This is a warning from your future self. Ignore it at your peril.

I’m afraid you probably will ignore it, because you aren’t looking for advice. You’re looking for absolute answers, and you have some very limited ideas about where to look for them. You will not find any of the answers that I can give you in the places you’re comfortable looking.

There is so much I could tell you, but what I wish for …more

Boot Camp Day 8: What to Do, What to Do?

I love to-do lists. It’s great to gather the details of your life into concise bullet points, to organize the universe of tasks by priority or category or color-coding. It’s great to check things off a list.

I have a lot of problems with to-do lists.

I don’t like being told what to do—even by me. I never know how to deal with recurring tasks. Do I really need to remind myself to make my bed? Once upon a time, I did. If I take it off the list, will a day come when I forget to do it? On the other hand, it’s an easy job to check off early in the day to get …more

Boot Camp Day 6: Things That Stood in the Way of My Writing 1,000 Words Today

The first thing I had to do this morning—after brewing a pot of coffee, of course—was to soak in the bathtub for a while. See, I overdid it yesterday in a couple of different departments. I walked 6-1/2 miles in the stifling heat and humidity of mid-day because I had received an invitation to a party that would conflict with the usual timing of my walk. Then I went to the party in question and drank four beers, which is about four more beers than my normal daily consumption of late. So when I rolled out of bed at the crack of 10:15 this morning, my first rudimentary (dehydrated, hungover) thought after “must have coffee” was “must soak in tub long time.”

Coffee mug in hand, I crawled into the tub with the latest issue of Granta, my favorite “literary magazine.” I had read most of the issue, so this morning’s soak was focused on finding every scrap of text …more

50/50 Exercise #13: Address Book

Dear Grandma,

I’ll bet you thought you were never going to hear from your youngest grandson again. I wasn’t too regular about writing to you for the last decade or two of your life, so you certainly shouldn’t be surprised that you haven’t heard from me since you left us.

From your vantage point, I would think it’s easy for you to see why I didn’t stay in closer contact. Not long after the last time I saw you, when we got together with Laura and Yvonne, Karl and Edith, little Karl, Linda and her kids, Jane, Dad, and all those others at your place in Middle River, my life started heading in a direction that I wasn’t ready to share with you. I hate the way that time and circumstances isolated me from you. It wasn’t that I thought you couldn’t handle the secret …more

50/50 Exercise #8: Three Wishes

To be honest with you, I don’t make a lot of wishes. Somewhere near the age of seven centuries, I realized that I already had the power to bring into existence anything I desired. Don’t get me wrong…I’m not saying I can defy the physical laws of the universe to make the impossible possible. But around that time, I began to realize that I could mold my own desires to conform near-perfectly to everything that could be. And remember: the limits on what’s possible aren’t what they used to be.

But you asked me to make three wishes, so here goes.

Number one, I wish I could forget the wrongs that I never had an opportunity to make right. There aren’t many of them. When you live as long as I have …more

50/50 Exercise #3: An Eternal Flame

Not a day goes by that I don’t think about the ones who didn’t make it to “escape velocity.” About my parents, who were already past their seventies when the longevity therapies were introduced. About my brother, one of the last victims of cancer, before we understood how it could be turned off and on at will. I think most often about my baby sister. She couldn’t overcome her moral objections to life prolongation, and so I watched her age catch up with mine, and then I saw her overtake me, grow old, and finally die of a disease that had been all but eradicated in our generation. We were of the generation that came to be called “The Millennials,” both because of the timing of our births and because we were the first humans to live a thousand years.


The Art of Living

I ran across the following quotation in May, and it’s been on my mind ever since. How much work (or play) will it take to live up to this standard?

“The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he’s always doing both.”

—James Michener