Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner


Originally posted on April 25, 2014

This word is defined as a loss of vitality. It can be from malnutrition, perhaps mixed with physical exhaustion, but the term also speaks to a state of vitality—or the loss of momentum thereof—of an individual, group, organization, or even political dynasty. The word seems fit as I notice trends in culture, certain fashions dying away, certain trends topping out and declining. Some organizations I’ve known, and the desire to get together extended family reunions.

I became aware of a childlike innocence that was coming up against reality. Things can’t run out, get not just charmingly old, but feeble. This awareness then shifted to a related shift—I’ve noticed that plants, bushes, trees also get old. Some even die and keep standing. Others are mostly or partly dead while some of the branches still sprout leaves. Those who know plants know this, but I’m a bit of a city boy. Wow, I thought, not only at the notion of things growing old and decrepit, but also amazed at how long it took for this notice to really sink in a bit! (I’m not a youngster any more by a long shot!)

What I realized is that my gung-ho-ness felt a little shocked by the fact that “everybody” doesn’t share my enthusiasm, doesn’t get in and pull the wagon with passion. Indeed, many feel apparently unashamed to say, in effect, “Ho hum.” “I’ll attend now and then if it’s convenient.”

I remembered that plants also have life spans. Somehow that was not so obvious to me when I was younger. I noticed that the woods have a portion of old, young, and middle-aged trees. But it all happens so gradually that until recently I hadn’t appreciated that growing old and holding on to a lot of dead branches is a diagnostic reality for many plants.

I realized that I attributed a kind of near-immortality on trees. It was an unconscious assumption, and it was naive of me, now that I think of it. If I had studied more about plants it would have been basic understanding! Trees and bushes and other plants grow old! Many grow older faster than we humans do! Wow.

I realized that, similarly, I had assumed that organizations thrive, and although individual friends may drift away, die, relationships shift, that social networks also have their natural life spans. Been there, done that. Part of me was transferring to plants and social networks the idyllic timelessness of youth. Best friends forever, BFF, you know. I became more sharply aware, as I begin to see my own life end, that it isn’t so that things don’t decay.

Intellectually I sort of knew that great empires decline and fall. I know of many in history. But my own connections? Never! At least so it seemed. But if I integrated academic knowledge and gut knowledge, overcoming primal resistances, I realized that not-altogether-fortuitous changes might happen in my own social networks! People die off, the old pioneers and stalwarts. Groups can wilt and need fresh infusions of ideas, activities, and so forth. Some activities, even, go out of fashion! It’s no one’s fault. It doesn’t imply a lack of leadership. Well, some vigorous leadership can renew the process and give it renewed life. It occurs to me that this is the way some folks get a new lease on life with a medical treatment, but other conditions are less amenable to treatment.
I’m gonna die, though it may be several years or decades before I do. I use this time to contemplate life from many angles. Happily, I have a fellow contemplateur (my French twist on the activity of contemplating) in the person of my darling wife Allee. We register the ups and downs of trends, such as those towards inanition.

I have encountered that word a few times in the last few days and it has struck me as telling: A flagging of enthusiasm, a lack of vitality. In some roles I have a lot of enthusiasm, but in other roles, not so much.

One of the challenges I’m facing is the recognition that my trying harder, driving myself, perhaps heroically, can fend off a sense of having collaborated with the forces of failure regarding the sustenance of some large collective effort. I realize firmly, now, that even subtle unconscious feelings of obligation and reproach won’t actually help that much if at all. I guess I’m learning to let go.

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