Should our enjoyment of the wonderful things in life lead us to neglect the dangers posed by the bad things? Should our fear of the bad things lead us to lose all enjoyment of the good things?
I’m sure life always serves up a heaping helping of both. I won’t say, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” first because things could certainly be better and they could certainly be worse, and second because when people say that they may not recall the rest of Dickens’s paragraph, which is a remarkable opening for a novel:
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair….” And so on. What an amazing writer!
On the bleak and wintry side, I’m terribly alarmed by the rise of fascism in the United States. This country has always been a hell-hole of racism and a bastion of pig-headed stupidity, but things do seem rapidly to be getting worse. In the long run, of course, that probably doesn’t matter, because the human race is on track to completely fuck the biosphere. The future belongs to the cockroaches and the crows.
Also on the bleak side, I’m over 70. I’m old. I didn’t ask for any of this shit — the deteriorating eyesight and hearing, the weird patches of dry skin, the occasional bits of clumsiness and forgetfulness — but I wasn’t consulted.
But then there’s the good stuff. I’m healthy, wealthy, and wise. I live in a part of the world that is not being ravaged by missiles fired from American drones. I have some marvelous musical instruments, and I know how to play them. On the Internet I can see things that would have been utterly beyond my reach even 25 years ago. I can even buy tasty frozen dinners at Trader Joe’s!
Keeping a balanced view of all this, not giving way either to gloom or to blind optimism … it’s tricky. I fall back on the Serenity Prayer: The horrible things are, in almost every case, things I can’t change. But I can surround myself with good things and cultivate them.
I had to give up my attempt to start playing again in a community orchestra. Night driving on the freeway to and from rehearsals is just not safe for me anymore. But the good outcome is, now I don’t have to practice those damned annoying triplets in Dvorak Symphony No. 8! I can practice Bach instead. Bach is so much more rewarding.
And that’s the news from Lake Woebegone….