Friday, May 15, 2020

A crepuscular meander.

It's Thursday afternoon as I write this, Friday as you read it, and I'll tell you straight out, this post will be as close to religious, or at least reverent as I get.

The world is a chilling place. Sad and scary. And worse, it seems to be falling deeper and deeper into a mean and inhuman abyss. The rich and the illiberal seem to be getting richer and more illiberal. 

"I got mine. Go fuck yourself."

That has a ring to it. 

Way catchier than "of the people, by the people and for the people."

99% seem damned to lives that, in the words of Sir Thomas Hobbes, are "nasty, brutish and short." I might add, and without healthcare. 

The historian in me has two things to say about that. One, since roughly the later part of the 18th Century, the West has philosophically been under the influence of Enlightenment thinkers. In broad strokes, people who put science, data and humanity before dogma.

Two, if you grew up around the time I did (I was born in late 1957) you grew up in the golden age of American liberalism. I'm sure I'm screwing up some details, but if I remember correctly, in the mid-1970s, CEO pay was roughly 17-times that of the average worker. Today, I believe the average is closer to 250 times.

I think what's happened in the last 30 years or so, is a societal retreat from liberalism and enlightenment to what for the purposes of glibness, I'll call Dark Ages 2.0. 

That is a period where it's ok to be anti-fact, anti-science and pro-dogma. That seems to be the approximate attitude of the entire Republican party. Climate change, evolution, the dangers of de-regulation, the dangers of Covid-19 for that matter, well, they're all inconvenient truths. Or maybe, just to go full solipsistic on you, they're not true if you don't believe them. Because, in the age of alternative facts, fair is foul and foul is fair and it's all Obama's fault.


But I started off this post some hundreds of words ago, by saying you were going to get me at my most reverent. Unlike most advertising writers, I'll try not to disappoint.

God, or whatever you believe in, moves in mysterious ways. 

Last night, fairly out of the blue, I got a long and eloquent email from my first boss in the advertising business. I worked for him (I'm leaving his name out of this because I haven't asked his permission) starting back in 1985. 

According to the Nielsen™ data I have on this blog, 42% of my readers were not even born in 1985, while 16% play badminton left-handed on Tuesdays and Sundays in October, weather permitting.

What I've found out about faith during my 62 years on this planet can be summed up in a sentence, a sentence you won't really get if you don't get it.

Faith usually shows up when you least expect it and most need it.

For Viktor Frankl it was noticing a sprig of green in the dust of Auschwitz. For me, it was meeting my wife. Or running into a headhunter in the park one afternoon when I had just reached the point where I thought I'd never work again. Or maybe one sad morning my long-time therapist will shiv me with something that will lighten the not inconsiderable shadow of my umber.

Last night, getting this note from my first boss, was one of those moments.

No, I wasn't having an undo crisis of confidence. Professionally, I'm working like a eight-legged dog, and all things considered, my future looks moderately incandescent. 

But you know, it's hard some days. 

Hard to find the right ingredients in your emotional pantry. I don't think it's unusual to feel--though it might be unusual to voice--that sometimes we all feel in psychic arrears. Like five cans short of a six-pack. Sometimes rather than merely feeling that the world has spun of its axis, we actually believe it.

Mostly, the note was about long ago when I was at my friend's agency. He taught me to learn to ride a bike. And how skinning your knees bloody was part to that teaching and getting back on that bike an even bigger part. Mostly the note was about something I had seldom experienced before way back in 1985. Skinning your knees with love.

Sometimes you just need to hear, especially those of us without mothers or fathers--or who maybe never had progenitors at all--that all those cuts, scrapes, bruises and abrasions were worth it.

Thanks for the hurt.

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