Legendary TV producer Norman Lear stopped by the Televisison Critics Association’s press tour in Beverly Hills to promote an upcoming PBS documentary covering his career that’s set to debut next year. But what seemed to most impress reporters was the 93-year-old’s opinionated tangents, covering politics, TV, America and mindfullness. Below are six highlights from a press conference with the creator of hits like All in the Family, The Jeffersons and One Day at a Time:
— On politics: “Everybody knows me to be a progressive or a liberal or lefty or whatever. I think of myself as a bleeding-heart conservative. You will not f— with my Bill of Rights, my Constitution, my guarantees of political justice for all. But does my heart bleed for those who need help and aren’t getting the justice that the country promises them and the equal opportunity the country promises? Yes. I’m a bleeding heart, but I think myself to be a total social conservative. The people who are running just don’t seem to have America on their minds, not the America I think about. When I was a kid we were in love with America. As early as I can remember, there was a civics class in my public school. And I was in love with those things that guaranteed freedom before I learned that there were people who hated me because I was Jewish. I had a Bill of Rights and a Constitution, those words out of the Declaration that protected me. And I knew about that because we had civics in class. We don’t have that much in the country anymore. So before World War II or shortly after, we were in love with America because we understood what it was about and that’s what we were in love with. I believe everybody’s patriotic today. Everybody loves America. But I don’t need their flag plans to prove it. I’d like to go back to civics lessons.”
— On waking up: “I want to wake up feeling as I usually do, loving the day. The title of my book is Even This I Get to Experience, and that’s the way I basically look at life moment to moment. And now I’m looking out at you. I was 93 on Monday. So it took me 93 [years] and five days to get here. It took you every split second of each of your lives to get here for me. So I’m way ahead of you. It took all your lives to get here, so this moment is the moment. Even this we get to experience.”
— On the Golden Age of television: “I think this is the Golden Age. I understand what the Golden Age was when I was coming into television, and it was those years of Playhouse 90 and Philco Playhouse. But there’s great drama and some great comedy on television today. I can’t see it all.”
— On excess: “Our greatest export in America is excess. We are so excessive. There is so much to watch, so much to buy, so much they’re selling. I wish they would sell the value of the country as hard as they sell the rest of it.”
— On living in the moment: “There are two words that are under-recognized: ‘over’ and ‘next.’ When something is over, it’s over. And we’re always on to ‘next.’ And the hammock, the imaginary hammock in the middle is what I think is meant by living in the moment. I’m living in the moment waiting for next.”
— On perspective: I’ve learned introspectively how much each of us matters and how little we understand how much we matter in the course of our day. I’m impressed with the way we all affect each other in small ways and the good we do in terms of relationships that would otherwise seem meaningless, or certainly easy to overlook, that we don’t take credit for, each of us, all of us. If I could make anything clear, it would be that.