I AM SO SLOW!
All my life there have been bright and clear events, all of them happening in plain sight, but I haven’t noticed them, till all of a sudden now. They’ve never been secrets, they’re like friendly dogs, going for walks with me year after year, and I never noticed.
How many events are there? Hundreds, thousands? You’ve been aware of most our event companions, unless like me you’re part of that two percent who never got the word.
Want an example? Here’s one I noticed yesterday. Just noticed it! Yet it’s been walking with me since I was maybe eight years old.
Yesterday, I noticed that we have a public family, one that we grow with. For years, the people of this family were older than we are, since we find them when we’re pretty young, ourselves. We meet them in movies: Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart, Elizabeth Taylor, James Stewart, Audrey Hepburn, Gary Cooper, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Newman, Rita Hayworth, Gregory Peck.
In books my family was L. Frank Baum, Margaret Mitchell, Ray Bradbury, Laura Ingalls Wilder, E.B. White, Ayn Rand, Ernest Hemingway, Antoine de Saint-Exupery, Harper Lee, John Steinbeck.
In time we’ll meet others as old as we are, then a few who are younger. Our public family is these and more: singers, dancers, comedians, commentators, a few politicians, the ones who play in the theater of media. They make us smile, mostly, their wit and their skill at their craft, their sudden rise in our consciousness, and sometimes their fall. Quite a gift, this family, and we’re not even aware it’s a gift till they’re gone.
Slowly, in time, our public family dies. Do you remember Nevil Shute? A magnificent author for me, and a best-selling writer in the 1950’s. He wrote On the Beach, a book that may have pushed the world away from a nuclear war. Only old readers remember him, now.
Live long enough, and we’ll notice that our family has disappeared, and some of us have chosen not to be part of the major modern family, a culture sometimes of hopeless drugs and wars and lies.
New actors, of course, new music groups appear where the old family was, and for some of us, remembering what lived before, they’re not our family at all. The actors don’t touch us as once actors did; what they call rap is not music for us, their literature gone coarse. Sometimes we don’t smile at the public family as once we did.
Is the Internet a new family? I remember, for instance, it was yesterday when we believed that we fought a world war to save civilization. Does the Web tell us now what television does not mention, that the USA is involved today, for instance, in 74 wars? On the Internet, we can find out.
Like the survivors of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, a few of us refuse to cheer Presidents as they murder others at weddings and funerals around the world.
Has it made me an orphan, my decision to leave a dysfunctional public family? Who is there today, to become our family? Just a few? Just Us?
Maybe that’s how it works.