Thornton Wilder, known for his insightful wit, wrote,
“It is only in appearance that time is a river. It is rather a vast landscape, and it is the eye of the beholder that moves.”
If so, we collectively took a hard right turn this year that nearly led us off the map. It has been a strange, and perhaps surreal, time.
Our new President turned the White House into a reality show without a script. He traded insults and threats with the equally disturbed dictator of North Korea, and tweeted petty and sometimes bizarre messages, as if to distract attention from the slow but unyielding investigation by Robert Mueller into Russian involvement in the election.
The Republican led government proved unable to govern effectively, except to deliver a Trillion Dollar tax cut to the rich, at the expense of most of those that brought them to power.
Terrorist and cyber attacks peppered the news with alarming persistence. They included a shooting from a Las Vegas hotel that killed 58 and injured 546, numbers that no longer seem to shock our collective conscience. Hurricanes Harvey, Maria and Irma caused unprecedented devastation, as did the second largest wildfire in California history.
I lost one who was perhaps my closest friend. We all lost Chuck Berry and Greg Allman, two very human musicians who defined the ends of Rock and Roll music. Fats Domino and Tom Petty too passed away. With them went Country Music’s Mell Tillis and Glen Campbell, a virtuoso guitarist who recorded dozens of hits with the Wrecking Crew studio musicians before making hits from many of Jimmy Webb’s catalog of songs.
The actress who shared her heart openly with the world, Mary Tyler Moore died, as did the playwright Sam Shepard. The world lost two humorists who made us not only laugh, but think deeply and give to those in need – Dick Gregory and Jerry Lewis.
And then there were the deaths of the controversial Hugh Hefner and the terrifying Charles Manson, two individuals who, respectively, made us rethink our standards and our very humanity.
In the wake of this world seemingly turned upside down, I am somehow comforted that life still can go on. Except in Puerto Rico, the lights remain on. There is food in most of our cabinets. Football games, even with the toll they take on lives, still are played. Children go to schools that do their best to instill education, ambition and a few values. The Internet still works, even without net neutrality, and the mail, what little that is left, still is delivered fairly regularly.
It is heartening that sexual abuse is no longer tolerated anywhere, except it seems in the White House. I do wonder, however, whether one, or maybe even two, men may have been unfairly swept out with the trash. Indeed, the backlash against Meryl Streep bears the marks of mob mentality. Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman topped it all off magically.
While white nationalists came out from hiding, they have largely been shouted down by those living in the 21st Century. We can even hope that we have heard the last from Roy Moore.
All in all, I have learned again that there is more life in the small, day-to-day moments that one has some control over than the real and imagined horrors shouted in the news. Somehow, my two grandsons know joy, love and hope that their world will be a good one. We have more than a few students intent on using the law to serve justice for all, and I rejoice when I hear good news, even though it is sometimes rare.
I do not ignore the horrors and injustice that pervade too much of our landscape. They discourage and depress me, but they also goad me to carry on in the smaller world where I live each day.
You may find it in an earlier post, but here are the words I remind myself to live by:
Be kind. The world can be a cruel place.
Live small. Make room and save resources for others.
Seek peace. Both within yourself and with others.
The only thing I might add is to have a sense of humor. God had to be laughing when he made some of the people we run into.