01 January 2008

Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot?

Well, I can think of some former acquaintances that definitely should be, but for the most part I'm feeling pretty benign about humankind in these early hours of 2008. That may change soon, as apparently they're holding some sort of presidential election in the United States this year in which only fools, buffoons, charlatans, mountebanks and scoundrels are allowed to stand as candidates, and this just may succeed in getting my goat at some point.

But with any luck my goat will remain as ungotten as it has in recent months, meaning I'll continue to fulminate about the Bay Area and malfunctioning transit systems and occasional bouts of bad weather, but apart from that will remain inexplicably content with my own lot and that of the world at large.

I know I really should be angrier about something, and no doubt some of you will write in with long lists of exactly where I should start, but really, why should I squander the energy? The world's going to continue to get warmer? Well, I know plenty of places that could use the warmth. The economy's going to hell in a handbasket? It's been there before, and people (mostly) survived. The war is going to drag on forever? Well, actually, it seems to have gone awfully quiet of late, raising the dreadful possibility that George Bush, against all odds, may have turned out to be right about something.

In relation to the latter scenario, a lady at my mother's church was telling me yesterday that her son, who's a Marine stationed in Fallujah, reports that for the past couple months attacks on US patrols have almost ceased, this after a year in which he felt in mortal danger every time he set foot outside of headquarters. True, even if things have taken a turn for the better, Bush could very likely find a way to screw them up again, but it's worth asking: what if his much-ballyhooed and even more roundly decried "surge" turns out to have worked? How will all the "Bring the troops home now" people react to that? Will they still insist on a precipitous withdrawal on the grounds that America deserves to lose the war even if it somehow ends up winning it? Perhaps we shall soon see.

On the other hand, if the war does end up taking a turn for the better, we might end up with another Republican president, and with the possible exception of Giuliani, that would probably be a disaster. Of course most if not all of the Democratic candidates look pretty disastrous, too, so, um, big deal, I guess. Nonetheless, I sent in my New York registration form the other day, and as per family tradition registered as a Democrat, so come next month I suppose I'll have to be choosing one of them. The thought does not appeal.

But never mind; the thing that I found myself getting most exercised about these past couple weeks (it's a rather small matter, I'll admit) is people sending Christmas/New Year/holiday greetings, usually by email, in which they say something like, "Boy, wasn't 2007 a terrible year? It'll be great to see the end of it."

Now this annoys me in two ways: first, the assumption that just because you're having a "terrible year," everyone else is, too. And secondly, the rather childish assumption that the date on the calendar has anything at all to do with your luck or lack thereof.

Even if you could produce a graph showing how your index of misfortunes spiked dramatically at the beginning of 2007 and continued at unusually high levels throughout the year, the idea that your lot in life will suddenly improve as a result of turning the page on a calendar seems about as ludicrous as these people who say, "Oh, sorry I haven't called you for the past year, but I just couldn't help it; my Mercury's in retrograde and you know what that does to my communication skills."

Well, no, I don't, really, nor do I care to. You may think I'm being a little harsh here, both as a former believer in astrology and someone who was once convinced that years, not to mention decades and days, had their own special karma over which I was powerless to exert more than the most trivial influence.

The older I get, the more inclined I am to believe that "luck" as we commonly understand it plays a very small role, if any at all, in the ways that our lives unfold. Oh, sure, there's always the, "If I had got on the previous train instead of this one I wouldn't have met the love of my life (or been beaten senseless by a gang of thugs, etc.) thing, but I'm inclined to think that most of these seemingly inadvertent twists of fate are decisions that we consciously or unconsciously make with full knowledge of where they are likely to lead us.

Agree? Disagree? Well, I'm not here to argue with you, even if you choose to believe the complete opposite. What I am here to say is that while I enjoyed spending a week with my family and friends in California, I'm really, really glad to be back in my nice, warm apartment here in New York. And even more than that, to wish you all the very best and happiest of years, new, old, or otherwise. Oh, and thanks for keeping me company here on the internet. Don't know what I'd do without you.


Psmith said...

Here's the "Bring the Troops Home Now" reaction:

2007 Deadliest Year for US Troops in Iraq

JohnnyB said...

Year six of the three week war is totally going to be the turnaround year! C'mon, Larry.