Last March, a longtime reader asked me to remove her from my email list. With the coronavirus pandemic wreaking havoc, she couldn’t take getting “bad news from the universe.” I deleted her name. But she missed out on a very critical concept.
True, the universe—in its broadest sense—sent us the virus. But failure to adequately contain its spread in the United States is very much a human issue. We have the power to mitigate it. Yet as simple a matter as wearing a mask became a major political issue starting with Donald Trump, who refuses to wear one and thus motivate his supporters to do so.
No question, the pandemic, economic collapse and social upheaval take an emotional toll. Going ostrich and sticking our heads in the sand is tempting. But whistling in the dark won’t shed light on solutions.
People create or worsen many of our problems and only people can solve them. Greed, envy, lust, ignorance and sheer stupidity are human traits, not those of the universe. Inattention can weaken our will and erode our capacity to tackle our challenges.
We have to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time.
Don’t want to check the daily pandemic death toll? (I do.) People will continue dying in alarming numbers. Can’t bear another bizarre story coming out of the White House? The mess regarding Russian bounties on American troops in Afghanistan will likely gain traction because it impacts our intelligence processes and national security. Ignore the rest of the ongoing and destructive mess in the Oval Office? That won’t bring on a Joe Biden victory in November.
Alarm and anger augmented by knowledge and perspective occupy critical places in a healthy society.
That said, entertainment and laughter form part of the mix enabling us to get through difficult times with our sanity reasonably intact. That’s why Carolyn and I, like so many Americans, check the news and also watch TV.
Right now, we’re very much into National Theatre Live from Britain. We attend plays at the National’s showpiece facility on the Thames whenever we’re in London. There’s great theater in America, but the Brits set the standard. That’s why Carolyn trained in two summer programs at London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts.
A week ago, we saw Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, meticulously videoed in the new Bridge Theatre on the south side of the Thames near Tower Bridge. We howled. The cast included Gwendoline Christie (Game of Thrones), whom Carolyn met at the Screen Actors Guild Awards a few years back, and Hammed Animashaun as a fabulously funny Puck. All and director Nicholas Hytner made the comedy accessible and added to it. Purists may decry the brilliant contemporary touches. Not the audience. It loved them. So did we.
We’re also watching the German sci-fi series Dark on Netflix. Deep mysteries. No idea what’s going on. Love it.
Some people may feel guilty about expressions of joy and laughter in a time of sadness. I suggest that we’re better off both facing our burdens and indulging in all the humor—and drama, music, food, wine and Zoom get-togethers—we can.
If we refuse to walk and chewing gum at the same time today, we’ll end up unable to do either tomorrow.
Happy Fourth! Let’s honor the best this nation stands for. It’s quite a lot. And let’s correct its misdeeds so that the American Dream applies to all.
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