Please, no cards or gifts, thanks. I’m somewhat past the age of needing that kind of false reassurance of friendship.
Thing is, I’m getting to the age where friends are dying off, pretty much left and right. They did this once before, in my 30s, during the first wave of AIDS casualties, during which — at one point — I was attending a funeral every two weeks.
Now I get notices of funerals every month. I rarely go.
I’m content with my mortality, I think. It’s been a reasonably long life, and I’ve managed to live it pretty well. I have no children, but my legacy is pretty well assured for the medium-to-long range… and after that, it’s out of my hands anyway, so why worry about it?
When you think about it, so many things in our lives are out of our control. Much as we argue about world politics, it’s doubtful much of it is going to change because of our outrage. There will always be despots looking to consolidate and keep control for as long as possible, just as there will always be benign dictators who rule with an aloof smile and a velvet glove encasing an iron fist. And if anything has proven it, the last year and a bit ably demonstrated that democracy — in the US in particular — is just as wonky a representation of the people it says it empowers. Honestly, it boggles my mind sometimes when looking at what has come and gone and come back again in the passing parade of American “leaders”, men — usually men anyway — whose trains of thought went off the rails and yet still managed to convince enough people that they should be sent to Washington to inflict their very special and select type of madness on the country as a whole.
And yet, not much I can do about that. All I can do is live with the after-effects, no matter what they may be.
Yes, looking back, things tend to run in cycles: good leadership, then unquestionably bad leadership, then good, then piss poor once more. It’s almost as if people are deathly afraid of a government that’s too benign. They need to be hostile towards Washington, so they send the country’s worst to ensure that hostility continues. How else does one explain the continuing existence of career politicians like Mitch McConnell — a man who’s never really done much of anything for the state he claims to represent and yet gets sent back with the foolish, short-sighted regularity of a vegetarian meal in a barbeque restaurant.
And if this kind of cyclic activity were somehow restrained to politics, perhaps the rest might not matter. But instead, we get the endless parade of pop-tart “celebrities”, folks who havent really done much of anything and are famous simply for being famous because they have an “unboxing” channel on YouTube with 87 kazillion followers… Seriously, do 87 kazillion people watch someone take things out of a box and oo and ah over them? And sometimes the cult of celebrity and the cult of politics intersect in the strangest of ways: “McConnell does something stupid; Kim Kardashian posts selfie in protest!”, and the world stops for 87 other kazillion people who can tweet “Kim, you go, girl!” — although to where is left open for discussion, I suppose.
Looking back, it does seem increasingly that we are meeting crisis with purposeful stupidity. We will reduce everything to the bleakest high contrast black and white we can, no matter what it might be. Issues of race and gender and ethnicity and religion and political affiliation have been reduced to their simplest (and most simple-minded) terms. And on those rare occasions when one tries to essay the things beneath the problems, one is usually greeted with a different kind of stupidity, one that masks itself with “keen insight” that the rest of us mere mortals cannot possibly comprehend without the insighter’s masterful analysis… which usually comes across as a term paper written by a second-year social science major at Brown University.
I dont know where the world is going. At this point, I’m not sure I really care. That’s not walking away from the problems, by the way. It’s accepting that some tire fires are just too far beyond anyone’s control and will continue to blaze for decades, long after I’m gone. In the interim, all I can do is my small part to make at least part of the world a slightly better place than what I found when I got here.
Happy birthday to me.