Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Older but Wiser

     I am spending this week at the Chautauqua Institute in Chautauqua, NY, about an hour and a half southwest of Buffalo. Perhaps on the theory that, as Henry Ford said, "Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at 20 or 80. Anyone who keeps learning stays young."

The library
     Chautauqua was founded by the Methodists, almost 150 years ago, as a place where clergy could reinvigorate their spiritual lives, and enrich their intellectual activities through literature, music, the arts, and other educational pursuits.

     The Institute today has become more secular, but retains its religious roots on an interfaith basis. The program runs for nine weeks in the summer. Some people come for the whole summer (and a few people live here all year round), but most visitors stay for a week, as we are doing.

     Each week focuses on a different theme. Last week featured documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, who led a session about the American West. This week explores international affairs, and the opening session, yesterday morning, was hosted by CNN's Fareed Zakaria, who is also a Washington Post columnist and Time magazine editor at large.

We're staying on the 3rd floor of this house
    Zakaria, who was born in India and earned a Ph.D. from Harvard, gave a very thoughtful and informative presentation about the Middle East. The audience responded with a standing ovation -- which (forgive me) is not that easy for many of those in the crowd. The people who come here tend to be on the older side. Or as B and I acknowledge when we see all those gray heads, "This is our demographic."

     Yes, there are a few families here, with some kids running around, but I'd say it's much more common to see older couples walking along the streets. And there's plenty of room for wheelchairs at the amphitheater.

     The demographic is definitely older, white, middle and upper-middle class. But people do come from all over. We've met couples from Missouri and North Carolina. There are of course plenty of people from New York and Pennsylvania. I've been surprised at how many people come from Ohio. I guess it shouldn't seem that extraordinary. We're only about 50 miles from Ohio. It's just that (forgive me again), when do you meet anyone who lives in Ohio? When do you even think about Ohio?

The snack bar
     We've been to two concerts so far, and a dance recital; and on Wednesday we're seeing a production of The Tempest. B went to the interfaith church service on Sunday, while I, er... I decided to commune with nature by sitting on our front porch and reading some background material on the Middle East.

     The Institute also offers a whole series of classes, covering art, crafts, language, literature, religion and philosophy. B had signed up for three classes before we even got here. I'd signed up for nothing. I figured the music and the theater and the morning lectures would be quite enough.

Fareed Zakaria speaks to our mature audience
    But I got embarrassed at my blank dance card, at least compared to the one B had filled out. So I finally decided to start a photography class.

     The photos you see here today are those I'd taken before I started my class, which runs for two hours, every afternoon for the rest of the week. So I'm going to be busy for the next few days, and will probably not be able to produce another blog post until sometime next week.

     At which point I will display my new photographs. And then you can be the judge about whether or not I learned anything.


Olga said...

It sounds fascinating.

DJan said...

I look forward to your pictures. I'll bet you don't have many from the west coast at the event. And you're right: does anybody really live in Ohio? :-)

Anonymous said...

My uncle and aunt have lived in Ohio for a number of years. We are trying to get them to relocate to Hawaii.

Douglas said...

As you described the average visitors to the institute, I was reminded of two things:

1. The description we provide to someone looking for a golf partner they had never met "Old guy, gray hair, might be wearing glasses and a hat... you can't miss him."

2. The young and healthy are at work, therefore, they cannot attend. Who's left but us old folks?

Denise said...

I live in Ohio! Watch it! However, your "vacation" sounds wonderful, and I haven't been to Niagara Falls since I was 11. Hmmmmm.

Anonymous said...

Learning for a lifetime is grand. I intend to do this until I die. BTW. I read Zakaria in my local paper (Post) and sometimes agree with him and sometimes don't. Interested in your experience.

A photography class sounds great. I won't be dancing for a while yet.

Gabbygeezer said...

Amazing! Didn't know this place existed. Sounds like my kind of thing, so I'll start lobbying beautiful wife to agree to a trip next year.

Tom said...

DJan, Farthest west I've seen is Wis., Ill., Mo., Texas. You Pac. Northwesters must have your own thing.

Geezer: Bet you'd love it.

Denise, That's why I said, "Forgive me." But that suggests ... maybe I should do a post on Ohio. My ex-wife comes from Ohio.

stephen Hayes said...

Can't wait to see your new photographs. It's been a long time since I took pictures. Take care.

joared said...

My Mother who lived her early years in northeastern Ohio, and most of the rest of her life elsewhere in the State, spoke of Chautauqua with reverence throughout her life - she mentioned many aspiring for an opportunity to attend there. What you describe sounds like the Institute continues to be quite interesting.

Though circumstances evolved so that I've lived longer in California than elsewhere and I would not move back to Ohio now, I'm glad for my grounding years there. I think all those surrounding Great Lakes States are special. Ohio will always occupy a tender place in my heart. I would have gladly moved back there, or most any other place, from one State where I had to live in the late '40s, early '50's where overt segregation prevailed ... but then moving back to Ohio in the mid-'50s I discovered covert discrimination in a small town there which my native-born Ohio friends and I proceeded to confront and surreptitiously overcome.

Anonymous said...

I am a transplanted New Jersey girl, married to a Buffalo guy. We live in the suburbs of Buffalo, and just returned from a day trip to Chautauqua. I am new to your blog, so imagine my surprise when I read about your trip.