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••• The International Writers Magazine - 22 Years on-line - A View From 90+

Observations on the Worst and Best of Times
• Martin Green in California - January 1st 2021

Charles Dickens began his novel “A Tale of Two Cities” by observing that it was the worst of times and the best of times.  I thought this was an appropriate description of where we are at as the year 2020 closes and the year 2021 begins.  The pandemic is once again surging, in the United States and it seems in most of the other Western countries.  Our own state of California is once again in lockdown.  However, one vaccine has already been approved and shipments are on the way with a second vaccine not far behind.  We are being warned of a long dark winter ahead, but Dr. Fauci says there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

Millions of words have been written about how to survive the pandemic, some of them by myself, and they probably haven’t been of much use to anybody.  However, being a long-time cat person (as readers know),  I was recently struck by an article in the Wall Street Journal by John Gray headlined “Cats Are the Best Philosophers.”  The gist of the article is that cats’ default state is “contentment, to which they return whenever they are not hunting, mating or playing.”  In contrast, Mr. Gray says, the default state of humans is “diffuse misery.” 

He goes on to say that if cats gave advice to humans it would be:  “Don’t chase after meaning, which will distract you from living. … Let each day be sufficient.  Find fulfillment in the sensation of life itself.  Don’t seek wisdom by looking within yourself.  Too much self-awareness makes life burdensome.”  And further on: “We cannot achieve the ease with which cats inhabit the world.  But we can perhaps learn from their example how to pass through our lives less anxiously.  Delighting in the sensation of life itself and not worrying about tomorrow have always been wise practices.  In a time of pandemic and pervasive uncertainty they have become necessary for the health of the world.”

I’m not sure what Mr. Gray means when he says that the natural state of us humans is “diffuse misery.”   I guess it’s similar to what Thoreau said, that most men lead lives of quiet desperation.  I have to disagree with this.  I’d hate to think that I’m miserable or desperate most of the time (although when my computer became inoperable I wasn’t too happy).  Also, since we humans are blessed, or cursed, with the gift of consciousness, it’s impossible not to look within ourselves every now and then and try to find some meaning in things.  

Having said this, as has become obligatory to say, I think us oldsters have a perspective on things that younger people may not.  We’ve lived through the depression (not a mere recession), a world war, a cold war, Vietnam and a few other wars, the 1960’s, television, reality TV, rap music, gangsta rap, robocalls, all kinds of scams, iPhones, iPads, Twitter, Facebook, the circus in Washington (and in Sacramento) and the latest drought era of the Sacramento Kings so we can be pretty sure we’ll get through this pandemic, too.   

Meanwhile, some things I learned during the pandemic.  When you get your groceries delivered you’ll always forget an item or two, same as when you went shopping in the store.  You can get almost anything through Amazon, including toilet paper.  You can order stamps online from the post office.  (I believe you can get stamps from Amazon, too.)   If you have a car problem you can get a mobile car service to come to your house and a mobile car service can do almost everything a regular garage can do.  I missed having sports on television.  You can live without a computer but it isn’t easy and you can have your computer fixed remotely.In last year’s January “Observations” I wrote something about the cruise Beverly and I had taken and I also noted that my 90th birthday was coming up and that I felt there’d been an arithmetical error somewhere as how could I be that old.  Now that another birthday passed on December 30th, I feel the same way.   Maybe it’s because for most of last year Beverly and I have been sheltering in place, which means we’ve been living in a cocoon - no going to the Lodge, no lunches at the Timbers, no exercise classes at the fitness Center and certainly no cruises - so everything in our lives has been at a standstill, including perhaps feeling that we’ve become older.

In closing, I want to salute the first-line people who are helping us get through the pandemic and the scientists and others who have produced vaccines in record times.  I hope that we can get through the long cold winter ahead (we will, remember those cats), that it might be pretty bad but not the worst of times and that we’ll have a spring and summer in which things get better and maybe the year 2021 will be the best of times yet.    Stay safe until the vaccine comes and Happy New Year.

PS.  I have been keeping a running journal of the year 2020 and hope to put out a book, “The View From 90” sometime later this year.    Be on the lookout.    My memoir, “The View From 85” is still available on Barnes&Noble as an e-book, a mere 90 cents.   
The View From 90: Adventures in Fall
Martin Green takes stock of October to Early December as Trump loses and Vaccine wins

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