Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Wiser Than Me [Media Notes 130]

A bit over a week ago I posted the conversation Julia Louis-Dryfus had with Carol Burnett (91). Now I’m posting her conversation with Jane Fonda (86):

On the premiere episode of Wiser Than Me, Julia sits down with the one and only Jane Fonda. With a career spanning over six decades, Jane – now 85 years old – hits all the highlights: staying fit at any age, fantasizing about funerals, getting heckled on set by Katharine Hepburn…and something about a fake thumb.

I’ve since watched some other podcasts in her Wiser Than Me podcast series: Diane von Furstenberg (77), Amy Tan (72), Sally Field (77), Gloria Steinem (90), and Debbie Allen (74). I list the ages because that’s one of the first questions Louis-Dreyfus asks her interlocutor, “Are you comfortable if I say you real age?” FWIW Louis-Dreyfus is currently 63. All of the conversations so far have been wonderful, some more wonderful than others, but all wonderful. But I’m not going to binge the rest. I need to dole them out sparingly to make them last.

As for wisdom, that’s tricky. It’s always held a somewhat mysterious, even mystical, quality for me, yet the dictionary definition is straight-forward: “the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment.” Do I qualify? I’ve certainly got experience and knowledge, good judgement? Not so sure. When I was much younger, too young to be in the running for wisdom, I found this well-known statement by George Bernard-Shaw in Man and Superman: “If we could learn from mere experience, the stones of London would be wiser than its wisest men.” The thing about the wisdom in these podcasts is that so much of it sounds humble and straightforward, nothing with even a whiff of “the sound of one hand clapping” mystique. And yet it all rings true, at least to this (I hate to say it) old man. They should know. They’ve lived it.

Here's a section from a recent interview Lulu Garcia-Navarro conducted with Louis-Dreyfus in The New York Times Magazine (June 8, 2024):

I recently heard an episode of “Wiser Than Me” in which you interviewed Patti Smith, and you talked about the different ways that you’ve processed the death of people in your own life. Have the conversations you’ve been having on your podcast helped you process the many ways people deal with the hard things in their life? Yeah, it’s really one of the many impetuses to making this podcast, because all of these women I’m talking to have lived very full, long lives. And that of course means they’ve experienced loss. And I’m really interested to talk to them about how they move beyond it or with it or into it. I’m just loving those conversations, to hear from these women who have experienced an enormous amount of life.

I find what’s comforting about them, and sometimes a little depressing, is how many of the same themes — sexism, prejudice, self-doubt — they have experienced themselves. What is your takeaway from hearing these women having gone through so many of the things that we’re still going through? There’s a sense with most of them, not everybody, but there’s a sense of, OK, I’m done with that [expletive]. I don’t know if we can swear.

You can swear. But anyway, I’m done with that. I’m done with self-doubt. I’m done with shame. I’m done with feeling weird about being ambitious. You know, the list is long. We all know what it is. I think for me, the takeaway is: Oh, we can be done with that sooner than we thought. We don’t have to take 60, 70 [expletive] years to come to that conclusion.

What are you done with? I’m done with [pause] — I’m working on being done with self-doubt. I’m working on being done with shame. And I’m working really hard on finding joy.

I like the way you paused and really thought about your wording, because you said, “I’m done with,” and then you said, “I’m working on being done with … ” Well, I haven’t accomplished all of this yet! Old habits die hard.

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