Updated: Sep 10
With Age Comes Humility
It’s been at least a half a century since I first thought about how far outer space goes. This ultimate mystery of our universe has since become somewhat of an obsession. Not only because it is scientifically confounding but moreover that so few others seem curious enough to look skyward and give the “infiniteness” of farthest outer space a second thought. Consider this a catharsis: At 67, I recently wrote and published a book about this phenomenon. Humble Sky is my attempt to encourage others to ponder this imponderable and, as do the characters in my story, be humbled by something so obvious yet beyond comprehension. Humble Sky follows the lives of Henry Bakersfeld, an aging genius living with dementia, and Sherman, a curious young boy living in the Bronx. Together -- with their similarly uninhibited minds -- they share a love for rocket ships and the great unknown. Their quest to discover how far space really goes is chronicled by Hanna, the caregiver in the assisted living community where Henry lives and Sherman visits. Independent validation for the book comes from a wide range of authorities. “The characters are beautifully rendered, and the story unfolds with great wit and pathos,” said Carla Gardini, executive producer of “The Hundred-Foot Journey” and numerous other coming-of-age themed films and TV shows. National McKnight’s Long-term Care News executive editor James M. Berklan said, “This is a wonderfully thought-provoking, sobering tale that offers plenty of space for interpretation. I was engrossed with every shift of focus and subplot -- from authentic to surreal.” The storyline twists and turns through varied issues, such as schoolyard bullying and self-confidence; the intersection of philosophy and cosmology; and healthy, purposeful longevity. All matters of which I have studied, written about and counseled on during my four decades in professional public relations -- a career that includes directing the international Schoolyard Bullying Prevention Campaign; partnering with Disney to create Recycle Rex, California’s mascot for resource conservation; founding the culture blog Humble Sky; promoting numerous intergenerational relations initiatives; editing the books Media Takes: On Aging and Longevity Rules; and serving two terms as a Governor’s appointee to the California Commission on Aging. It is reassuring to know my interpretation of aging-related cognition challenges resonated with renowned professionals in the field. “Thanks for Humble Sky. I enjoyed reading it. Decades ago I collected data testing whether senility (as it was then called) was a mindful response to an overly routinized environment and thus biologically advantageous even though socially maladaptive. … Henry would have known that,” wrote Ellen Langer, professor of psychology at Harvard University. Described by peers as the “Mother of Mindfulness,” Langer has authored dozens of books including the seminal Mindfulness and Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility. Humble Sky is my first piece of fiction. An extreme exercise in humility, the endeavor required perseverance, patience, reflection, critical thinking, and conversely being open to criticism. Fortunately, I found all of these virtues come more naturally with age.