Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Half a League Onward

New year, new beginning.

I don't make resolutions.  Never have.  I'm not inclined to stay up late on New Year's Eve. 

I grew up in New York City, just a couple of miles from Times Square.  I've never been to see the ball drop, though.  When I was a little kid and wanted desperately to go, my parents wouldn't let me.  (Times Square was a lot seedier in those days, but they wouldn't have allowed it in today's relatively wholesome space, either.)  By the time I was old enough to go, I no longer wanted to indulge in that particular sort of mob frivolity.

There's a moment in Catch 22, when the new young guys come and drive Yossarian nuts because they have so damn much fun.
He could not make them understand that he was a crotchety old fogey of twenty-eight, that he belonged to another generation, another era, another world, that having a good time bored him and was not worth the effort, and that they bored him, too. He could not make them shut up; they were worse than women. They had not brains enough to be introverted and repressed.
Put aside the sexism.  The point is about cynicism born of and borne through experience.  It's about being jaded, worn, tired.  It can come at any age. It's about knowing pain and sorrow and anguish.  It's about seeing the horror. 

My copy of Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling also has in it his The Sickness Unto Death.  What I'm talking about isn't what Kierkegaard meant, but his titles are apt.  So is Marlow's "The Horror! The horror!" from Heart of Darkness.

I look at what some of my clients have done.  I look at what has been done to some of my clients.  What we can do and in fact do to each other. 

Your heart can break only so many times with the aching, the sympathy, the mourning.

And yet we go on.

If you read my end-of-the-year post (Turtles - All the Way) you know that I imagine this year will likely be much like the last. Marginally better in some ways perhaps.  Marginally worse in others.

And yet we (I) go on.

I think it was Malamud who described (this isn't even paraphrase, it's just grabbing the idea) the Jewish male ethos as a kind of slogging decency, doing the more-or-less right thing because it's the more-or-less right thing to do.  And then doing it again.  Just because. 

But there's that soupçon of possibility.  Amid the random, the arbitrary, the caprice.  Amid the darkness, a chance hint of light.  Some small quantum fluctuation.  
Just maybe.  Maybe this time.
After all, someone will eventually win the fucking lottery.

And so we go on. 

Anyway, someone's got to do it.  And dammit, we actually prevail some of the time.  More often than we expect, even.

My traditional new year wish is that this year will be no worse than the last.  

And yet we go on.  So we go on.  Because just maybe it will actually be better.

Or maybe not.  

But we go on.  It's what we do.

Happy New Year!
* * * * *
I could put the Once More Into the Breach speech from Henry V here, but I've done that before (and it turns out that I've used the term a whole bunch of times in the titles of posts). So this time, it's Tennyson.

Half a league, half a league,
      Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
      Rode the six hundred.
'Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!' he said:
Into the valley of Death
      Rode the six hundred.

'Forward, the Light Brigade!'
Was there a man dismay'd ?
Not tho' the soldier knew
      Some one had blunder'd:
Their's not to make reply,
Their's not to reason why, 
Their's but to do and die: 
Into the valley of Death
      Rode the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
      Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
      Rode the six hundred.

Flash'd all their sabres bare,
Flash'd as they turn'd in air
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
      All the world wonder'd:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro' the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reel'd from the sabre-stroke
      Shatter'd and sunder'd.
Then they rode back, but not
      Not the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
      Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro' the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
      Left of six hundred.

When can their glory fade ?
O the wild charge they made!
      All the world wonder'd.
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade,
      Noble six hundred!

1 comment:

  1. Or, as F. Scott Fitzgerald said: "So, we beat on, boats against the curent, borne back ceaselessly into the past."

    Or, you turn into Raskolinikov, out of frustration, of course, and bury the axe, but in whose head? The landlady's? The system's? The petty academic who thinks his/her world is bigger than it really is?

    Don't get Tennyson elbow, Jeff....it comes from reading too much Tennyson....