Thursday, April 20, 2017

Ralph Waldo Emmerson on aging and the boundary at the end

From the Poetry Foundation: "Ralph Waldo Emerson was a pioneering figure of what is now called “multiculturalism” who expanded the Eastern horizons of generations of American readers and writers, and he persuasively demonstrated how classical Indian, Chinese, and Persian works could be used as a means to bring the inquiring self into a fresh appreciation of its own profound powers."

Initially a Unitarian minister, Emerson eventually resigned saying he no longer believed in the divinity of Jesus. However, he did have a strong sense of a connection between the natural and spiritual world and was representative of the Transcendentalists. In his book, Representative Men, the Christian author Swedenborg was presented as his Mystic.

Emmerson's poem below appears to be his awareness of aging and the boundaries of life. he urges us to "Economize the failing river, Not the less revere the Giver." So I suspect he had a strong sense of a Divinity. He seems not depressed but upbeat by ending the poem with " The port, well worth the cruise, is near, And every wave is charmed.” 

Terminus
by Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is time to be old, 
To take in sail:— 
The god of bounds, 
Who sets to seas a shore, 
Came to me in his fatal rounds, 
And said: “No more! 
No farther shoot 
Thy broad ambitious branches, and thy root. 
Fancy departs: no more invent; 
Contract thy firmament 
To compass of a tent. 
There’s not enough for this and that, 
Make thy option which of two; 
Economize the failing river, 
Not the less revere the Giver, 
Leave the many and hold the few. 
Timely wise accept the terms, 
Soften the fall with wary foot; 
A little while 
Still plan and smile, 
And,—fault of novel germs,— 
Mature the unfallen fruit. 
Curse, if thou wilt, thy sires, 
Bad husbands of their fires, 
Who, when they gave thee breath, 
Failed to bequeath 
The needful sinew stark as once, 
The Baresark marrow to thy bones, 
But left a legacy of ebbing veins, 
Inconstant heat and nerveless reins,— 
Amid the Muses, left thee deaf and dumb, 
Amid the gladiators, halt and numb.” 

As the bird trims her to the gale, 
I trim myself to the storm of time, 
I man the rudder, reef the sail, 
Obey the voice at eve obeyed at prime: 
“Lowly faithful, banish fear, 
Right onward drive unharmed; 
The port, well worth the cruise, is near, 
And every wave is charmed.” 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Wrongful life resulting from unwanted CPR and other heroics

Paula Span in the NYT has an interesting and challenging essay about unwanted CPR. Others have also commented on this issue. There are legal, medical, and moral issues involved. In the CCRC when I live, we are more aware of this issue than in many venues. Storing our advance directives and POLST forms (if completed) in a hanging file under the kitchen sink at least gives a helpful head-start for medical responders. Some residents have acquired DNR bracelets or medallions, a more direct signal to try to prevent bystanders from initiating CPR. Others, of course, would like all measures including CPR to keep them going.
Society's general default is "to do everything to save a life" then clarify and ask questions. But many argue that their right to die peacefully is violated by unwanted CPR heroics. There's even an attempt in Maine to legalize the use of DNR tattoos.  The moral of the story for all of us - think hospice not hospital at the end; have a strong personal advocate; and consider a DNR bracelet or medallion when you have a POLST form.

The funeral as we know it is becoming a relic — just in time for a death boom

By   Karen Heller April 15 Ed note: Funerals are changing in ways that will bring culture shock and a shake of the head of s...