Don Rogers: 2021? It’s personal
The world will be fine.
Vaccines at 94% effective will do their job. National politics will shift down to a once-familiar dull roar after just a bit more kabuki theater. Wildfires will burn hot as ever come summer.
On balance, we’ll continue enjoying easily the healthiest, wealthiest, safest and happiest period in the human era, while of course wringing our hands at everything that scares us or could possibly lead to misery.
That’s just who we are — super social creatures a bit prone to drama, telling ourselves stories.
Still, the planet spins as always, the population continues soaring. Even at the height of the current pandemic, we’re living longer than ever.
We’ve all but vanquished deadlier diseases than this — poxes, fevers, measles, every plague — and it sure looks like we’ll get this one too, stupid as America has been, a rich, smart nation where somehow fully a quarter of this entire contagion has spread. We, with less than 4% of the world’s population. Tragically, we also account for a fifth of the deaths.
Only in America do we get on planes by the millions for the holidays and infect our loved ones on the other side of the country, inviting further flights for too many funerals, as we’ll likely see again soon. We do know better, but apparently smart has its limits.
Seems we are one thing collectively and quite another individually, with 331 million individuals at large to make a whole lot of, well, really dumb decisions and believe some really dumb things.
So for hope, I look to the collective, the us that along with cancer has a decent chance of curing old age. Think about that not so distant future: Driverless vehicles of all kinds. Robots and software doing the better white collar work. Showering for real in a fountain of youth. In a finger snap, leaving behind a fossil fueled world.
Yes, I know. Far too many among us still swallow Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani’s ravings. Mine at least are plausible, bearing actual evidence.
We survive — or not — collectively. But we each live our lives individually, alone, if fortunate enough to be well loved coming in, have a hand to hold going out.
Grand pronouncements, criticisms, observations, even predictions for a community, a nation, a species are one thing. But that’s not how we experience life.
I wake up to my wife, not another’s. Savor my steaming cup of coffee, feel my legs and lungs burn on trails I pick out to run, weigh my vote, choose what I’m going to read or watch, decide whether I’ll venture out of what’s become comfortable or expose myself to something new, scary even.
We each live by a thousand little cuts, all these choices that add to and subtract from the quality of a life. Tons of mistakes, a few things we get just right, all balled up.
Then we tell ourselves these little stories, mostly fibs, about what we’re really doing, making ourselves out as the protagonist. Of course, it would be pathological to live consciously as the villain.
When I think about the future, I’m not so concerned with whether Donald Trump or Joe Biden is the president, if a mine will reopen or a new dam get built, if Oracle and Tesla herald a great exodus from this overtaxed, nanny state.
These are all worthy of attention, sure, all cause for worry. I’m just saying I’m not so caught up in that as I am with more personal things: Seeing family and friends more often and more together. Seeing everyone at the office. Traveling to see the grandsons; OK, their parents too. Going to events, especially literary events, and rubbing elbows again with those artists I so admire, as well as my fellow fans.
I’m more concerned with my habits than a president’s, with sharpening my mind, staying fit, improving my writing, always that. Growing as a person.
I realize as I’m writing that I’m far more selfish than selfless, still climbing the first in David Brook’s “The Second Mountain: The quest for a moral life.” I have quite a ways to go.
Here, I turn to individuals — they are all around us — who contribute to one or more of the innumerable community service efforts. These guiding lights who might be swinging a hammer, filling a grocery bag, sitting with someone in deep trouble in need of their ear. Asking uncomfortable questions, spreading cheer, but people working for others, for the betterment of the collective us.
This is what occupies my mind, fills me with great hope, for 2021. I think you and I, we’ll be fine too.
Don Rogers is the publisher of the Sierra Sun and The Union, based in Grass Valley. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-477-4299.
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