A Different Approach To Adversity, Aging, Disease And Opportunity


This is a five year retrospective of one person age 72, published in the Spring of 2018 as part of the ongoing books of memoirs; one done every 5 Years by the Harvard College Class of 1968. This book was for the 50th Reunion of the class.

If life begins at 50, then I just recently became an adult (age 21) for the second time. As strange as it may seem, I have been amazed at how accurately this thought describes much of my recent activity over the last five years.

When I first reached 21 some 50 years ago, my life choices were largely those that had been preprogrammed by my parents and the economic and social environment in which I was born. This time around, I have the opportunity, or at least the illusion, of making my own choices, based on what I have seen to be workable and non-workable. This time around, I am actually entering adulthood much more as a free individual, with an open book ahead of me.

There is of course one caveat: our bodies are inevitably falling apart now at an accelerating rate. What I have found is that this situation does not prevent the youth and enthusiasm of the first adulthood from reappearing, it only means that one has to be selective about what one focuses on. Furthermore, I have found that the conflict between age and youth, health and illness to be very enlightening, and actually enhancing. I would like to explore these thoughts with five important events of my last five years.

At the time of our last reunion, my factory had just burned down. I took a very substantial loss in equipment and stored possessions and income. The owners of the building had decided to turn off the fire alarms just before the fire occurred, which didn't help matters. I had not even been to the factory for 36 hours before the fire occurred, so there was very little chance that I had caused the fire, as was agreed by everybody. Even though five towns sent fire engines to put out this fire, the state fire marshal and a world-class fire expert, who was brought in to figure out the cause, determined this fire to be an act of God.

My point is this. I could’ve put my head in the sand, started to grieve, and feel sorry for myself. But as a professional inventor, and young in spirit, with my second adulthood upon me, I decided to try a completely different approach. I decided to focus on everything positive that the fire had just enabled for me. I was amazed when I created this list at how many points there were to be positive about. For one thing, it was going to cost me $10,000 to get rid of all the machinery and all my belongings at the time of my death. This cost vanished as all the burnt items were removed by the insurance operation of the building owners. Secondly, my mother’s ashes were at the factory waiting for my brothers and me to collectively decide a date to deal with them, a date which never emerged. With a five alarm fire, my mother who loved my inventing and factories, was actually cremated a second time, as her ashes blew out in a flame of glory. Thirdly, I didn’t have to pay any more factory rent. Fourth, some receipts and papers that the IRS might have wished to see for tax purposes had been burned up, and were unavailable. Fifth, the IRS gave me a loss carry forward of $100,000, against future earnings should there be any. Most important, I realized that I had just joined the fraternity of many other American families who had lost their homes or factories to fire or hurricanes or floods. I could go on with a number of other items on the list, but you get the point. This approach can be used for any calamity or loss. All of this was very enabling and empowering, rather than the contrary.

A few friends lent me a little bit of money each, and within two months I rebuilt the factory on a much smaller scale, but with full functionality.

Now for Event Two. For many years I have believed in running on the grass park beside the Atlantic Ocean here in Beverly, MA. Two summers ago my knee started to swell up and I had to stop running along the edge of the sea.  I had to have my knee drained three times at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Then an MRI showed that I had a torn medial meniscus. My Harvard Medical School surgeon suggested that before surgery I try out physical therapy on my knee. This therapy was actually very successful, and I was able to avoid having surgery. Partly in gratitude to my doctors and physical therapist, and partly to take weight off my knee, I decided to become 20 pounds lighter, and in the best physical shape I could be. I also thought this reduced weight might help should I get cancer.

In order to do the physical therapy, I rebuilt a lot of the standard physical therapy equipment, with improved items which I used at home. Secondly, I found the existing techniques for losing weight to be wholly inadequate, and began development of a different approach to weight loss. After six months, I had found a number of answers and my friends had noticed so much improvement that they demanded I share concepts with them. I had long been planning to do this, but now had something really important to say, and my bank manager was demanding that I provide special tutoring for her and her staff.

Now comes the interesting part of this vignette. At this exact point in time, I came down with severe shaking, and a fever, and profuse sweating. I had just had a prostate biopsy, and decided I should wait until the next day, Monday, to call up my urologist. Without being able to move, I decided to use my altered state to see if I could get my diet book written. I sat down with my dictation system, and in a semi-trance for the next four hours, dictated the main text of my book (like Edgar Alan Poe, when writing The Raven). The next day my urologist told me that I had sepsis and had to get to the emergency room immediately. I didn’t really have any idea what this meant, but I was soon to find out over the next seven days in the hospital, and 10 days in outpatient care with a connected IV. In the hospital I gave out the URL of my diet book to any and all the nurses who showed an interest. In this case, actual sickness helped promote a work of wellness. The book has since been published on the Internet and is titled, The Inventor’s Lifestyle Diet. You can Google this term and go right to the book, which is completely free. In this book I also introduce a new type of dancing, which is based on resonance with music, and is self-choreographed and has no other rules.

Now for Event Three. As many of you know I have spent much of my life building a progression of steps that will help anybody learn to read, or improve their current reading. During the last five years, I have been able to finish this progression of steps and begin the process of providing a tool for all schools and colleges who are interested. Previously, I have worked with individual clients, and done the program myself at schools and colleges. All this same time I have continued my weekly chats with Marty Cain, who provides incredible insight on our Harvard years, and to all the years in between then and now. In the process of talking with him, and with the help of many clients, I have been able to understand (with Marty’s wish and blessing) a generalized theory of how students can slide into mental illness, and how my reading program provides not only a method of improving student reading, but also improves student mental health. I have started sending this theory and technique around to many thousands of school administrators and K-12 principles. You can Google the following term and go right to this work: Improving Student Reading and Improving Student Mental Health. I am extremely hopeful that this process of reading improvement can be used for reading improvement, and at the same time and by and through itself, prevent further instances of Newtown.

Now for Event Four. As I mentioned earlier, all is not roses physically as one ages. My prostate biopsy and the resulting sepsis turned out not to be so bad after all, because the biopsy showed that I had intermediate level prostate cancer, which had to be addressed immediately. Because of other complications, proton therapy and external beam radiation were ruled out, and I was left with radical prostatectomy. In talking to my physical therapist about how to possibly deal with my situation in the future, I suddenly came face-to-face with the concept that having more children was out of the question. I realized that I had never actually thought about that, but like most men, I just assumed that anything was possible and drifted along letting such issues slide. Instead of going into a full panic attack, I realized that half of all people our age, namely women, have dealt with this issue and come to terms with it since the age of 40 to 50. So actually, this illness led to a very positive reality check, long overdue for me, and probably most men our age. As far as losing the 20 pounds of weight is concerned, my surgeon told me that because of other illnesses, I needed to have the robotic assisted laparoscopic surgery performed in a small radius, which would not be possible if I had any belly fat. So my losing the weight did not prevent cancer, but it made possible the treatment of it. As is often the case, I realized that logic and understanding often comes with moving out one layer in the onion of thinking.

The last Event, Number Five, is about the future. I actually see our class as initiating one more major event. This would be the transition of lifestyle from one in which the individual made a tremendous amount of money by cornering some niche market, or marketing scheme, and then was given social climbing points in return for the amount of money he or she gave away. Computers and robots are rapidly reducing the number of areas which individuals can corner. Doctors are becoming hospital employees; and lots of legal work is now being done with computer boilerplate. These are but two examples. Instead, I see a different type of workplace where individuals do more and more of life’s activity themselves, including the learning process. As a professional inventor, I love my work with its vertical integration, and find it intoxicating and frequently very productive. I consider my mechanical inventions to be functional art, and incredibly enjoyable to develop. I have tried to live this approach for the last 50 years. Although this approach is fraught with many ups and downs, I feel it is completely viable as a preferable alternative to the previous system.

With my second adulthood, as with all such events, only the future will answer many of the short and long-term questions raised here, but I remain very optimistic.

John Fleming Adams

Overview of Reading Program

Prevent School Shootings With Reading Improvement

Double Daily Reading

The Inventor’s Lifestyle Diet

Specialized Massage Tools for Ankylosing Spondylitis