Larry Hagman died yesterday, a one-of-a-kind TV star according to his co-star of the ’60s, Barbara Eden. Many middle-aged fans will mourn Hagman’s passing, and pop culture is still imprinted with the villainous oilman character that he portrayed – J.R. Ewing – in the hit series Dallas. But to males coming of age in the 1960s, Hagman will always be paired with his every-male-fantasy-sidekick Eden, for the roles they played to perfection in Sidney Sheldon’s creation, I Dream of Jeannie.
The premise of the show was ingenious. Astronaut Hagman was launched into space at a time when NASA was at the peak of its popularity and support. There is a malfunction and the mission has to be aborted. He falls to earth, he knows not where, but is lucky enough to stumble across a bottle on that desert island and liberate a genie from her bottle who coos “Master, Master” in a way that … well, there simply was nothing like it on television at the time. Here is the first episode:
It would be difficult to argue with the selection of Barbara as the No. 1 Classic TV Beauty of the 1960s, but neither is it hard to take note that the first advertisement on the website boasting her selection is for AARP Medicare Supplement Insurance Plans. Ouch! Stefan Klein, in his brilliant book about the the secret pulse of time, tries to make sense of life’s scarcest commodity. There’s a particular chapter I commend to you that speculates about why life speeds up as we grow older. Note: I didn’t write why life seems to speed up as we grow older. Get us around a marshmallow campfire and all of us boomers would agree on this shared perception.
Time perception is a quantity of information, pooled in large measure by the novelty and variety of our experiences. That helps explain, for example, why driving to an unfamiliar destination seems to take so much longer than the same route on the way back home. We can also all agree that as teenagers time often felt like it couldn’t go by fast enough. Hours seemed inexhaustible because we were invincible. The possibilities were limitless and there were always milestones to pursue. Think of all the “wait until you get older” time markers – education, driving, voting, marriage. Birthdays moved so slowly as children that we had to mark half years, but after 21 and seemingly overnight we began to mark time more by decades than years. Wittingly or unwittingly we graded our lives in comparison to epochal ideations contained in guides to living such as Ethics of Our Fathers.
In our younger years the brain commits so much to memory because there is so much new. The self-awareness that our actions impact others. The avocations we wish to pursue, and the potential vocations to consider. There is much ahead for us to explore. Perhaps that’s why those who age well seem to us more skilled at retaining that spark of discovery. The older we get, the more cognizant we are of less time remaining so we fight the accordion-like shrinking of our frontal lobes by consciously expanding our interests. We feel the tension of what we might have wished to accomplish balanced against the reality of less time or circumstance in which to accomplish it.
At some level, regardless of how successful we are, each of us fantasizes about saving time in a bottle …