As the trolley rattled to a halt outside the Portland Museum, an elderly woman vied with a young man, burdened with grocery bags, to climb aboard. The woman made it through ahead of him and he said loudly, “I hate old people.” As part of that vilified demographic, I wondered what about us incurs such wrath. Is it our slow driving on the freeway or our guaranteed monthly social security? Could it be our assumption, that because we have put in hourglass time, we’ve earned a certain deference? I claimed my senior citizen seat but asked myself, do I deserve a place of rest more than the pregnant lady with a three-year-old in tow?
Reuben Navarrette, a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group, recently wrote an article on eliminating elitism in whatever form it takes. The disease strikes not only politicians or the one percent, but is written into our history books, caught in the throes of our legislative process, and part of our human nature. It’s an affliction of both condescension and disdain. Elitism is envisioning myself as better than other people, when I am not.
So, still in the birthday mode of my 75th year, and far from the packed trolley, I reflect on how I want to see.
Even though this five-inch wonder with huge gremlin-like eyes can see even in the faintest light, that is not who I want to be. I want to be the photographer who waits, as a stranger and alien, to snap this creature’s twitching ears; to see the one-inch pebble toad (who cannot hop) stiffen its tendons, and catapult down the mountain to safety; to film the pufferfish creating a landscape design on the ocean floor.
As photographer of the soul, imagine what I would possess: the artist’s creative vision, the eye behind a camera, the clarity of patience that expects little, yet, when the editing is done, produces the miraculous. So, one more birthday wish: as the sand flows through that hourglass, may my inner eye gain focus.