In more innocent times we asked questions like “what’s the “beyond” in Bed, Bath, and Beyond? We were max-innocent. We asked because the answers would be foolish. If nothing else the past four years have rid us of vapid fancies.
Meanwhile one thinks of Will Rogers: “An onion can make people cry, but there has never been a vegetable invented to make them laugh.”
Now this is true as far as it goes. He means peeling. I’ve yet to peel a rutabaga and just crack up. The name of the rutabaga will make you smile but so what?
When I think about peeling the president I just see smaller versions of him popping out. This is not funny.
In more innocent times…
Well of course there never were such times. But a fool and his nostalgia are not so easily parted. But there never were such times. While people watched “What’s My Line?” on their Dumont televisions they were executing the Rosenbergs.
Will Rogers: “Things aren’t what they used to be and probably never were.”
Peter Charles Hoffer’s splendid book “Clio Among the Muses” tackles this very problem. In short we’re living in an age when as he puts it, “there’s too much history to bear.” We’re also prone to believing only the history we like and the devil take the hind most. Christopher Columbus butchered and enslaved human beings. Hey, my grandfather loved Christopher Columbus. The latter view is a call for more innocent times.
Hoffer notes that suffering is crucial to our understanding of greatness in human beings, noting that Lincoln was not the best educated candidate for the presidency but he was certainly the greatest sufferer:
“Lincoln served as president during the most horrific and perilous of all American wars. His life, until the Civil War erupted, did not seem to prepare him for greatness. But it did prepare him for suffering. Often lonely, beset by images of his dying mother, melancholy and depressed, he identified with others’ suffering. Suffering taught Lincoln to hide a portion of his thoughts and feelings, and the empathetic suffering he exhibited during the war. The poet W. H. Auden wrote, “Let us honour if we can; The vertical man; Though we value none; But the horizontal one.”
In more innocent times…
Will Rogers: “The worst thing that happens to you. May be the best thing for you if you don’t let it get the best of you!!”