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Guest column by Jonathan Kahane: Laughing at oneself shows wisdom

Published: 8/28/2019 6:00:10 PM

I am writing in reaction to Sara Weinberger’s column, published in the Gazette’s Aug. 19 edition, where she takes issue with the political cartoon also published in the Gazette on Aug. 7. The image depicted elderly and infirm men and women celebrating the Woodstock 50th reunion.

I am 74 and tried to get to the festival a half-century ago, but was stymied by muddy roads, standstill traffic and a variety of other mishaps — as were thousands of others. I never did make it to the hallowed grounds, but was certainly part of the “happening.”

Though I agree with much of what Ms. Weinberger says about the negativity of ageism in our society, I take issue with her self-righteous criticism of the published cartoon.

One of the virtues of maturity is wisdom, and being able to laugh at oneself is wise. When I looked at the sketch in question, I saw all of the “us” on that farm. The characters were returning to the scene in the best way available to them — camping on the ground, tapping their toes and “rocking” to the music. In fact, I think I could even hear Jimi Hendrix riffs!

Ms. Weinberger claimed to be “mindful of those whose choices are limited.” Where is the “mindfulness” here?

Yes, we “took to the streets” in order to try to change what we thought was wrong and immoral. I’m wondering if you, Ms. Weinberger, made it to Bethel that August way back when. I didn’t see you there, but granted it was bit crowded, or are you simply pontificating from a safe perch many years later?

The people in the cartoon were still making themselves heard and supporting the cause in the best way they could. Who is the intolerant one, Ms. Weinberger?

Your rants dealing with sexual behavior of the elderly and the suggestion that the word “retirement” is not socially acceptable are preposterous.

Regarding the first statement, it seems to me that one of the couples is recovering from a “fun time” and the others are certainly looking forward to an exciting evening — if my memory is holding up!

With regard to the latter, your statement about retirement suggests that your definition of “meaningful experiences” is the only acceptable one. What’s nothing to you might be earth shaking to someone else.

In addition, your comment about a lack of roles in movies for the elderly is not true. You might want to watch, “Going in Style.” The original 1979 version is best. I must warn you though that between the tears you might find yourself laughing. Heaven forbid!

Since you cited an “expert’s” opinion in your piece, I will cite just one of hundreds of scientific articles to support one point. Ursula Beermann of the University of Innsbruck (and others) have found that the ability to laugh at oneself improves quality of life and extends lifespan. By not taking oneself too seriously, one is prepared to “acknowledge that you are not the center of the universe.” It improves “well being and psychological health.”

We don’t attend the same parties Ms. Weinberger, but I do hope you find the occasion to enjoy a few laughs.

“Rock On.”

“Peace Love and Rock ‘N’ Roll” — and all its variations!

“We are star-dust, we are golden,

And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.” — Joni Mitchell, 1969.

Jonathan Kahane lives in Westhampton.

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