With her new book entitled Sage-ing While Age-ing, you might think Shirley MacLaine has morphed into one of those serene crones dispensing Wisdom. Happily, you'd be wrong. She's had knee surgery, kidney surgery, and a facelift, but she's still our Shirley, the dancer with the mile-long legs, Academy Award-winner (Terms of Endearment, 1983), author of 10 previous books, and unabashed advocate for the spirit world.
Sage-ing While Age-ing is as scattershot, exuberant, and out there as the author herself. The hook, if there is one, is MacLaine settling into her new Santa Fe home, reflecting on what she's done and where she's been. While she permits a few anecdotes about her Hollywood life and drops names, including Dean Martin, Mike Nichols, Meryl Streep, and Jennifer Aniston, they're only there to provide the bait. You're barely hooked before MacLaine switches her focus, which has nothing to do with showbiz. What's Sage-ing While Age-ing about? Let's put it this way: Roswell, New Mexico, is UFO City. MacLaine has moved to New Mexico. Coincidence? There are no coincidences.
MacLaine, author of the bestsellers Out on a Leash (1983) and The Camino: A Journey of the Spirit (2000), writes that "much of my public interest in such issues has obviously caused many people to call me wacky." But the wonderful thing is, she doesn't care. "Even though I may be ridiculed for revealing my experience and my 'enduring' curiosity, I have to do it. I cannot stay silent."
The author deeply believes in the presence of what she calls "celestial travelers," and if you want to know what might have happened in Roswell in 1947, MacLaine offers more thorough research than what you're liable to find on the Internet. However, I confess by the time I got to the point where she writes, "Please bear with me dear Reader, and keep an open mind as I tell you that I believe I lived on the lost continent of Atlantis," I felt as though I'd been having agreeable cocktail party chitchat with someone who suddenly reveals herself to be very, very odd.
Yet even if you're a serious skeptic like me, whose interest and belief in aliens is negligible, some of what MacLaine says about aging does resonate. "I am happy with my life right now, but I do feel old," writes the author, now 73. "The older I get, the more I think about God, more about my life's meaning, more about what we term consciousness."
There may well be aliens among us, but it's hard enough just being human, and when MacLaine writes about this, she is honest and compelling. "I don't like to drive at night anymore. The landmarks seem unfamiliar, and I feel lost. For me that is a terrible feeling," she writes, but rather than feeling self-pity, MacLaine finds herself thinking "of all the people in the world who were rudderless and without landmarks of their own and without light."
MacLaine ends her book predicting a profound shift in global consciousness and even provides the date this will happen. I won't spoil her message, but I will say that if you've been meaning to get around to doing something, now's the time.
Who knows? The girl could be right. Certainly, there's more in this world than we can understand, and bravo to MacLaine for continuing to search for what she calls "this 'other' truth, this 'other' dimension." As she writes in eye-opening all-caps, "STAY OPEN-MINDED. OTHERWISE THE TRUTH MAY NOT EMERGE." That's a great lesson to learn—at any age.
Ellen Kanner also contributes to Pages, The Miami Herald, and food magazines, including Bon Appétit and Vegetarian Times. She lives in Miami.