70 Things I Have Learned at (nearly) 70, by Stephen Cain

Stephen Cain shares 70 things he has learned at nearly 70

Last week’s installment of Things I Have Learned featured our youngest contributor, so it seems fitting that this week’s guest blogger is our oldest, about three times Brian’s age.

Stephen Cain’s list challenged me. My vision for this series was to share somewhat universal life wisdom, to pass along experiences that might help one another. Stephen’s list came in with a lot more edge, more criticism of the things he opposes, more calling out what he sees as wrongs and injustices.

We discussed a bit while I hemmed and hawed, and ultimately, it became obvious to me that being able to respectfully discuss the way we all see the world differently is something I deeply value, so why not do that here? While I might not agree with everything on his list, I’m happy to put it out there as a conversation starter. If you see the world exactly opposite, and he helps you realize that, it’s worth it.

If you’d like to debate any of these items, you can find Steve in the roasting heat of the Ann Arbor Art Fairs this week.

His bio: I was mainly an investigative reporter for the better part of 35 years at The Detroit News and later The Ann Arbor News. I took early retirement, went back to school for a bachelor’s and master’s in social science and American culture, make jewelry that I sell mainly at craft shows, and also do woodworking, stained glass and stonework. My wife, Pat, and I split our time between a restored cabin and workshop in the southern Appalachian mountains and a condo in downtown Ann Arbor.

Iʼll be 70 in October, and one thing Iʼve learned is that only a little bit of what passes for wisdom is universal. Most is personal or at best limited to subsets within our culture. So what Iʼm passing on to you is, shall we say, idiopathic. Some is liberal because thatʼs who I am. Some is anti-church bureaucracy, which is different from disparaging faith.If youʼre easily offended, Colleen wonʼt mind if you pass on to a less edgy list.

1. I have three messages for my children: Never gratuitously hurt someone else; it is your obligation to leave your little corner of the world at least marginally better for having passed that way; and, never lie to your mother!
2. Prayer may be good for the soul, but the universe is utterly indifferent to your hopes and fears.
3. Doing or saying something that makes another person feel good about themselves is an incredible turn-on.
4. There are as many SOBs with PhDs as there are at the assembly line at Ford. The difference is that they have more subtle ways of screwing you over.
5. Late-blooming women are much nicer to be around than those who never got over being beautiful children.
6. It takes a thousand repetitions for a parrot to learn to say something clever.
7. Insanity is defined as doing the same thing over again and again and expecting a different outcome. We fight our wars that way.
8. If you thought about all the ways TV ads are deceptive, it would drive you to distraction.
9. Repeating a really delicious rumor about a boss will come back to bite you in the ass.
10. The gelding knife is the only cure for bully bosses who get off on testosterone.
11. The mistranslation of Mary as “virgin” has screwed up western sexuality for nearly two thousand years.
12. The New River isnʼt.
13. The Catholic Church, in most places and for most of its existence, has served the state as an instrument of social control.
14. Feminism threatens men who pine for Stepford wives.
15. Frieda Kahlo was a more interesting person than Diego Rivera and probably a better painter.
16. When Michigan revised the criminal sexual conduct statutes, why did the male legislators vote to exempt fanny patting?
17. No Child Left Behind tests penalize the best teachers.
18. At least 80 percent of the turquoise on the market is fake, including some showing up in Indian jewelry.
19. Any husband who tells a wife with a gun, “You wouldnʼt dare,” deserves what he gets.
20. If she were smarter, Sarah Palin would be really dangerous.
21. Those who canʼt counter the message demonize the messenger.
22. “12 Bones” in Asheville may be the best rib place in the country. Their signature is blueberry chipotle.
23. Cheap gas makes sense only if you expect the world to end before your grandchildren reach their majority.
24. The one thing Democrats have going for them is that they arenʼt Republican.
25. Excessive cleanliness makes you more vulnerable to pathogens.
26. If Charles were your son, wouldnʼt you hold onto the crown forever?
27. I got good at recognizing undercover cops wandering around Detroit Recorders Court … they were as easy to spot as women with dramatic surgical enhancements.
28. The fittest punishment I can think of would be to condemn shit heads to see themselves the way they really are.
29. They demand justice for everyone else but wants mercy for themselves.
30. The monied interests “bribe” Congress to tilt the playing field in their favor.
31. Never pee on an electric fence or into the wind.
32. The law of unintended consequences rules most of public policy and much of individual initiative as well.
33. I used to think the British were somewhat civilized until I read Irish history.
34. America has had its time in the sun, but I fear it will “rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
35. You canʼt get something for nothing unless youʼre a Higgs boson.
36. Einstein said the faster you go the shorter you are, which is only true if you are going headfirst or feet first. Otherwise, you get thinner.
37. Iʼm uncomfortable playing aces and eights.
38. Ignore Nelson Algrenʼs third admonition at your peril.
39. Cesaria Evora has the voice of an angel.
40. Willie Nelson doesnʼt.
41. Newton Minow didnʼt live to see the “Real Housewives of New Jersey.”
42. Never insure a texting bicyclist.
43. The “City of New Orleans” changed the face of America.
44. The mosquitoes of Old Crow can exsanguinate a caribou calf in 48 hours.
45. Dictators never laugh at themselves.
46. Any preacher who claims to know the mind of God doesnʼt.
47. Lady Gaga is a parody.
48. If memories of childbirth didnʼt fade, weʼd be a planet of only children.
49. Inhale before you bring a blowgun to your lips.
50. Jubal Early was Leeʼs most inept general.
51. As a class, bankers are the Jubal Earlys of American capitalism.
52. Apples are immune.
53. Indians along the Xingu give haircuts with pirhanna jaws.
54. Atmospheric carbon dioxide potentiates poison ivy.
55. Will Rogers never met Clarence Thomas.
56. Charleston is the heart of darkness.
57. Arthritic thumbs will be the carpal tunnel of coming decades.
58. One year repeated ten times over does not make a decade of experience.
59. You wonʼt hear “Danny Boy” in the pubs of Doolin or Listoonvarna.
60. Closure is a fraud.
61. Never pet a wolverine.
62. Most people who find incredibly stupid ways to die have already reproduced.
63. Parents usually get the children they deserve.
64. Most prosecutors in leading death penalty states would rather see a man fry than admit a mistake.
65. A really good friend likes you in spite of yourself.
66. Howard the Duck was wrong: The heat death of the universe is off the table.
67. Black truffle anchovy sauce over a charred rare porterhouse is worth the cholesterol.
68. Of more than a million species of acetobacter, perhaps a half dozen will make great vinegars.
69. Androgel and Cialis make old age tolerable.
70. And from my father, who lived to be 92: “Never pound sand down a rat hole!”

Stephen Cain was the sixth installment in the “Things I Have Learned” series, running each Thursday on Newvine Growing. Previous lists have come from:

Each person’s list is their own. Life teaches us all different lessons, even when we face the same experiences. I’m honored to share this series of life lessons in each contributor’s voice.

If you would like to contribute a list to the Things I Have Learned series, please let me know either in the comments below or by email: cnewvine at gmail dot com.


Categories: career, creativity, health and well being, home and family, lifestyle

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9 replies

  1. I wholeheartedly agree with #5. For self-serving reasons, of course.

  2. Excellent list. Thanks, Steve.

  3. A “gut radical” for sure – really liked it and agree with most of what he says. However, Lady Gaga is not a parody (no, I’m not a fanboy). She is fully aware of what she’s doing and she stands up for and celebrates the misunderstood outsider, just like Nelson Algren did. And #63 is rarely true. A word to the already wise – critical thinking and a strong sense of justice can be borderline hatred when not kept in check. Overall Mr. Cain seems like a very cool guy and someone to get into great discussions with.

  4. Don’t know why you worried, Colleen. This list rocks!


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