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When the wise and whimsical Sharon Olds started writing poetry over 40 years ago, she explored the subjects that interested her most — like diaphragms. “The politeness and the prudity of the world I grew up in meant that there were things that were important to me and interesting to me, [but] I had never read a poem about,” she once said. She won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 for her collection Stag’s Leap about walking through the end of a long marriage. Her most recent book, Odes, pays homage to the human body and experience.

You could say of the present that we are suddenly in a world of “ambiguous loss.” Family therapist and clinical psychologist Pauline Boss coined this term, and invented a new field within psychology, to name the reality that every loss does not  hold a promise of anything like resolution. There are “complicated griefs” that shift the world on its axis from one day to the next, with no going back to the world of before and no time to set things in order. This conversation is full of practical intelligence for shedding assumptions about how we should be feeling and acting that deepen stress precisely in a moment like this. It offers wisdom and concrete tools for becoming more meaningfully present to what is actually going on inside ourselves and for others.

Maria Shriver’s life is often summarized in fairy tale terms. A child of the Kennedy clan in the Camelot aura of the early 1960s. Daughter of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who founded the Special Olympics, and Sargent Shriver, who helped found the Peace Corps. An esteemed broadcast journalist. First lady of California. This hour, she opens up about having a personal history that is also public history — and how deceptive the appearance of glamour can be. We experience the legendary toughness of the women in Maria Shriver’s family — but also the hard-won tenderness and wisdom with which she has come to raise her own voice.

Life as an improvisational art, at every age. This idea animates the wise linguist and anthropologist Mary Catherine Bateson, whose book Composing a Life has touched many. Since her childhood as the daughter of the iconic anthropologists Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson, she’s had an ability to move through the world as both an original observer and a joyful participant. Now in her 70s, she’s pondering — and living — what she calls the age of “active wisdom.” She sees longer life spans creating a new developmental stage for our species.

On the approach to his 78th birthday, Parker offers up a gift: six learnings that prove that our personal evolution spans the whole length of life, and continues in the generations we nurture forward.

It is a story of our time — the new landscape of living longer, and of dying more slowly too. Jane Gross has explored this as a daughter and as a journalist, and as creator of the New York Times’ “New Old Age” blog. She has grounded advice and practical wisdom about caring for our loved ones and ourselves on the far shore of aging.

Alzheimer’s disease has been described as “the great unlearning.” But what does it reveal about the nature of human identity? What remains when memory unravels? Alan Dienstag is a psychologist who has led support groups with early Alzheimer’s patients, as well as a writing group he co-designed with the novelist Don DeLillo. He’s experienced the early stages of Alzheimer’s as a time for giving memories away rather than losing them.