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Good Grief

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I am old enough to have the clarity of perspective, which shows me the worst thing about the New Age is a lot of Solitude. But then, in Medieval Times, young people went to convents or monasteries for silence. To sleep in cells. And all cultures have retreats, or, times to go into the woods. This doesn't resemble that. We are invisible. Straggling through mobs of persistent peddlers.

Seven years ago, my husband's grandson and his wife visited us in London. They both worked for Apple, and each traveled with a new laptop computer they could not wait to show us. We worked up the attention one finds when asked to admire someone else's latest grandchild or new dog.

When I came downstairs late that night to bring some tea to my husband, Nathan and his new bride were also awake, sitting across from each other, faces lit up in the moonlight glow of each computer.

"Oh, you're each still working? Would you like some coffee?"

"No thanks, we're talking to each other, on the computer. It's silent and you can think about what you say. It's very private."

I'm thinking now, as I sit alone, writing with this actual Papermate pen, which writes words you can feel, words firm and clear, that we are evolving into translucent creatures; internet sprites, who will twitter, text and pinterest through cyberspace. We are the primitive, prehistorics, obsolete in our passion for books with pages, paper letters, actual voices. We know you can instant message each other off, for sure, or keep a healthy distance at least on Skype. Our students link up with friends of people they're not sure they know, all over the world and my granddaughter has more friends on Facebook than anyone else. At least, that's what she discovered when she had a duel over it with a guy in Ireland who designed her Mom's website. What is essential in the privacy pods you'll all be rolling around in one day is that generations are kept apart.

The arena of family is archaic. Our species help the planet deteriorate around us; one element of global devastation. It's not as if we didn't see it coming, but no one could have dreamed even five years ago that winter coats would go the way of tea cozies.

And then there were tea parties, which faded into oblivion with the arrival of Starbucks (after hard drinking stopped being sexy and snazzy when, like smoking, we decided it could kill us). So we meet for coffee. That takes no more than a half hour. No one has work, but who knows since everyone else's fingers seem to be tapping out deals, bookings, appointments and agreements. While our own intergalactic wunderkind sits still, tight-lipped, bleak, reflecting rejection. At stoplights, impressed with myself, I change the ring tone from London's church bell chimes to Sherwood Forest.

"Look what you can do!"

I take a picture of myself. Erase that. Smile. Still look like John Hurt. In better mood.

I leave the gym -- I don't go for fitness, but to see actual others. I used to shop to do that.

In L.A. where I am driving, we have far more time to evolve into loners -- beings who no longer run in herds, covens, packs, bands or even necessarily, couples. You see, here in L.A., we drive everywhere. We don't do yard work or share barbecues. And so we don't run across neighbors in robes and slippers on the porch as we run down to pick up the morning paper. We get our news online.

In this way we avoid those accidents of community, which could cause friendship, even involvement -- the threat to the loner's cherished privacy.

There are groups now. Drunks who used to gather in saloons, to watch each other get on with dying, now gather in church basements to help each other commit to living.

And when that ends for someone, cherished prehistoric mate or parent whose age was an affliction (possibly contagious), this warm other presence had nevertheless become troubling, even interruptive. The Social Network is right there. Google 'Grief' and you'll learn how to organize that. You'll find a Group (within your own budget), which will give you around ninety minutes a week to progress through the formal stages of grief.

You will hate the group. Everyone in it is old, and eager to accept the modern preservation of distance. When the phrase, "Good Grief" first came up, no one dreamed that there would be a world where good grief is what you keep to yourself except in the appropriate channel.

After the group, no one gathers even for a quick coffee. And they don't text or twitter. Careful grief management (Good Grief) may lead to Advanced Lonership.

My husband and I loved to waltz in big hotel ballrooms, whirling around other real people holding each other in their arms. Disco was a later stage in the evolution; you didn't have to touch, or look at the one you were dancing with.

Some nights now I dance to music on the TV music channel.

Sometimes I want to text everyone I have linked up with or exchanged cards with and say, "You can call or come over in real life, you know."

Have you noticed 'online' sounds like 'alien,' which sounds like 'alone?' Used to imply: lonely, an archaic, despised condition. Contagious.

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