“If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is”

Ho-kay, there are only so many design templates on WordPress you can play with, all right?

Eem, am getting quite pessimistic about the fate of the known world, what with reading Kurt Vonnegut’s A Man Without a Country and watching Spike Lee’s harrowing document “When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts” (am at Act III now — I ended up dreaming of fjords and water last night, sheesh). Don’t kid yourself, folks — at the rate we’re going, we’re all not long for this world, rich or poor, overprivileged idiots or not. To top it all off, I just cracked open a new novel, and it starts with this quote:

Every little trifle, for some reason, does seem incalculably important today, and when you say of a thing that “nothing hangs on it” it sounds like blasphemy. There’s never any knowing — how am I to put it? — which of our actions, which of our idlenesses won’t have things hanging on it for ever.
Where Angels Fear to Tread, EM Forster

That’s just great. Setting aside all the things we shouldn’t and should’ve done, have we been royally screwed or what? Not just on the day votes were rigged, reactionaries were rallied, money exchanged hands, nudges and winks were made, say no more — we were thoroughly rogered the day we were born as part of humanity! That’s how rotten we are as a heaving mass of a society. A big behemoth of a money-making/spending/bleeding machine, having little bits of gleam and shine, but mostly creaking with rust and agony.

But see — saving graces are all around us. Let’s flip this frickin’ coin over before we’re blinded forever. From A Man Without a Country:

Yes, this planet is in a terrible mess. But it has always been a mess. There have never been any “Good Old Days”, there have just been days. And as I say to my grandchildren, “Don’t look at me. I just got here.”

There are old poops who will say that you do not become a grown-up until you have somehow survived, as they have, some famous calamity — the Great Depression, the Second World War, Vietnam, whatever. Storytellers are responsible for this destructive, not to say suicidal, myth. Again and again in stories, after some terrible mess, the character is able to say at last, “Today I am a woman. Today I am a man. The end.”

When I got home from the Second World War, my Uncle Dan clapped me on the back, and he said, “You’re a man now.” So I killed him. Not really, but I certainly felt like doing it.

Dan, that was my bad uncle, who said a male can’t be a man unless he’d gone to war.

But I had a good uncle, my late Uncle Alex. He was my father’s kid brother, a childless graduate of Harvard who was an honest life-insurance salesman in Indianapolis. He was well-read and wise. And his principal complaint about other human beings was that they seldom noticed it when they were happy. So when we were drinking lemonade under an apple tree in the summer, say, and talking lazily about this and that, almost buzzing like honeybees, Uncle Alex would suddenly interrupt the agreeable blather to exclaim, “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”

So I do the same now, and so do my kids and grandkids. And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”


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