Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Made in America?

Sometimes, or many a time, The End just comes like a thief in the night, you don’t plan for it or even imagine it as an inevitable part of the narrative. You’re having a dinner, dancing the tango, crossing the street, sipping a cold bottle of beer or simply in receipt of a great news and then . . . a blackout. That’s it.

We knew all the while The Sopranos would end but we were vaguely wistful how Tony Soprano would leave the final scene. The creator had the last say, we also granted, and that somehow relieved us of the burden of coming up with a prediction certain of the conclusion.

Tony Soprano is a mobster, which is an occupation, just like being a politician, a realtor, a clergyman, a soldier or a CEO is an occupation, a way of earning a living. The temptation comes with the territory: you sell your principle or a house with a broken pipe, covet a helpless juvenile or subordinate, grab power by deception or illicit machination, launch a flawed product or an all-out crusade in callous disregard of other people’s lives.

So Tony Soprano who philanders, cheats, steals, or whacks his buddies or relatives is the same guy who cares to keep his loved ones whole - provides a decent shelter, pampers his spouse, plans for his children’s future - or simply struggles against difficult odds and perils, even dreams.

We all wear some form of masks, don’t we? Or, if we could afford it, hire pros to paint or mold one for us. Who are we then to judge whether Tony Soprano is a sinner or a saint? We don’t, because Tony, except maybe by a matter of degree, up or down, is essentially us. In the grand scheme of things, we have played a part of Tony’s character, either way. So, did we wish Tony, monster or not, to depart a hero? On the other hand, didn’t the creator simply tire out of playing God with his other characters and, this time, choose to delegate the power to whack it off - to us?

This may be a dumb question: Even if we want to be in charge do we really have any choice when it comes to our own finales?

A couple of months ago, a doctor friend of mine scheduled himself for a routine colonoscopy. Aware there are risks involved when a patient is put under sedation, he acted as if he was going into a combat zone and even felt impelled to tell his wife, as he did, about some cash stashed in one corner of their house. I thought it had been funny until my own turn came. I began to understand my friend’s dilemma even as I debated before “everything faded to black” if there was any difference between my dry run with grim reaper and a lethal injection. More recently, an older good-natured neighbor who had been silently suffering from prostate cancer for more than a decade (practical in life he has once expressed a wish to preempt the terminal date given by his physician) finally succumbed - to pneumonia. And yet last week, a childhood pal, a retired army general and decorated infantry division commander underwent a heart bypass surgery. Full of life during our last meeting and rearing to serve more after his retirement, I had urged him to run for office in the last election; not this one he said. Very unfortunately, he might not have won his last battle (well, who knows for sure) because of some complication four days after what had first appeared to be a successful operation.

What if the last phase of our earthly tale is compressed in an hour-long final episode? Can we choose to have first a night out or partake of the favorite onion rings with our family before going? Or have the luxury, however infinitesimally fleeting, of being surprised or confused - “Hey, is it the cable or my brain cells?” The End.

The blackout, the final moments in Made in America, looked convenient yet so well thought out it got us as close as it could get from reel to real.


Anonymous U pN said...

Steve Jobs' words to a college graduating class -- on the power of the reality of death:
Death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

June 14, 2007 7:12 PM  
Anonymous Nick said...

Hi Abe, I was wondering if you would like to participate in our writing project for the Musa Dimasidsing, a slain school director in Maguindanao.

He was one of the individuals who exposed fraud in Maguindanao.

You only need to write your reaction in a blog post and tell us about it, and we will link to you.

You can read about the writing project at the following link,

June 15, 2007 7:59 PM  
Anonymous U pn said...

To all over 35 years old:


How old would you be if you didn't know how old you were? ~Satchel Paige

A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams. ~John Barrymore

When I was younger, I could remember anything, whether it had happened or not; but my faculties are decaying now and soon I shall be so I cannot remember any but the things that never happened. It is sad to go to pieces like this but we all have to do it. ~Mark Twain

We grow old by deserting our ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. ~Samuel Ullman

You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt; as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear; as young as your hope, as old as your despair. ~Douglas MacArthur

There is no pleasure worth forgoing just for an extra three years in the geriatric ward. ~John Mortimer

Old age isn't so bad when you consider the alternative. ~Maurice Chevalier, New York Times, 9 October 1960

Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many. ~Author Unknown

Age does not diminish the extreme disappointment of having a scoop of ice cream fall from the cone. ~Jim Fiebig

And to the under-35 years old:

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream.
-- Mark Twain

June 17, 2007 12:36 PM  
Blogger Jao said...

"age doesn't matter, unless you're a cheese."

"and to the organized mind, death is but just the next journey."

August 15, 2007 2:46 PM  
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