.Small (or No) Rewards

A reflection on a moment

As I descend (slip, roll, dive, tumble, freefall) into my mid-70s, I am learning to cope, not simply with diminished expectations but with diminished capacity.

I haven’t always been this old, but I certainly am now, and being this old requires certain adjustments. Whereas I once had ambition, energy, a drive for self-improvement and a willingness to put up with massive challenges to achieve some level of personal fulfillment, none of that is happening as of today. It is gone, perhaps for good.

In place of a need to excel, or at least keep up with reality, I now have the opposite. I want almost nothing to do with this FUBAR world. Patterns of inertia have taken hold. I find it hard to care about the things I used to hold so dear: public affairs, the state of the nation, global power politics and ambitious proposals to solve problems on a massive scale.

In the ’70s and ’80s, I worked in the bank’s “politics” department—a group of hand-picked young brainiacs responsible for managing external relations with local, state and federal elected officials, banking industry policy figures, business media outlets and responsible large-scale business associations. It used to be known as lobbying. Such a quaint term, in retrospect. In truth, I was a former high school civics teacher hired to help local bankers better understand how to represent the bank’s interests in their communities.

A great job with low pay and high rewards, but the work seemed vital to the global economy, the holy grail of existence at the time. That enthused young banking businessperson no longer exists. In his place, I think it’s fair to say he’s a bum. An argument could be made that I am older now than ever.

I admire people my age and younger who still care about what happens in the public sphere. They are still out there participating, collecting signatures, having important conversations and engaging with the world of competing interests. They have a lot more patience than I do.

All that doing has been replaced by a desire to undo. Disgust with public affairs has replaced passion. Disinterest has taken over for intense curiosity. Constant “networking,” meet my new friend, “solitude.”

Craig Corsini lives in Marin County.

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