“Whan that Aprille up in Minnesota the drought of March hath pierced to the roote and bathed every vein in sweet liqueur which makes the corn grow, and it helps to use manure,” wrote Chaucer, or words to that effect.
Winter is brutal, dark, cold, we fall into the slough of despond, and now this year, as a bonus, a flu virus is going around that causes vomiting, low self-esteem, and what your grandpa called “the trots.”
In fact, I have a case of it right now, and I apologize if I must suddenly jump up and run to what your grandpa may have called “the biffy.”
It could be worse. I think back to the Russian opera I saw last Thursday with the raucous party in Act 1, reminding me why I don’t like parties, and the duel in Act 2, a man killing his best friend at dawn out of ridiculous drunken jealousy, and then, in Act 3, the hero is filled with bitter remorse at having rejected the woman who was in love with him in Act 1.
It’s just one thing after another.
This is how great art gives us perspective. I’ve done stupid things, but I have never shot a friend at sunrise. Aaron Burr did it to Alexander Hamilton in 1804 and the tradition slowly died out after that, and this is an advance, along with penicillin, GPS and ATMs. Duh.
And now spring comes tripping along, and thanks to the brutal winter, we will be better than ever, fly higher thanks to having sunk so low, perhaps even achieve magnificence of some sort.
This is the theory. Adversity makes us stronger. This is the principle of Dynamic Tension that Charles Atlas (”The World’s Most Perfectly Developed Man”) sold us boys in the back pages of Marvel comics. This is what St. Paul preached. He said the Lord never gives us more than we can handle and that suffering draws us closer to Him.
This is one problem with getting old. A geezer like me is on Easy Street. Seats are set aside for us in waiting areas. We get discounts on stuff.
Even before the first-class passengers board the plane, the gate agent invites those who need “extra time” to board, and all the Gammas and Gampies go shuffling down the jetway.
Social Security dumps money in our laps and Medicare pays for any ridiculous procedure that takes our fancy. Brain replacement? No problem. Leg extensions? You got it. Super-strength Viagra to keep you from rolling out of bed at night? It’s yours.
So once you get past 70, you need to create your own adversity, to keep up your interest in life, for intellectual stimulation. It’s not enough to go to the Y and jump up and down and shake your wrinkles.
This is one reason I am a Democrat. For the exercise.
Also because I live in a neighborhood that’s 80 percent blue and if I were a Republican, people in the coffee shop would get up and move.
Democrats believe in the common good, so we are swimming against the tide. Our neighbors say, “We send our kids to Holy Angels, so why should we pay for the public schools?”
They oppose Obamacare because they see poor people in the grocery store buying cigarettes and gallons of soda pop and if people can’t learn how to take care of themselves, why should we pay for their hospitalization?
People in Kansas don’t want to pay for the Coast Guard. People upwind of big cities want to do away with air quality standards.
It’s every man for himself. Or, as we Democrats say, every person for her or himself. Or themself. Theirself. Whatever.
After the election of a gold-plated Manhattan real-estate tycoon as a blue-collar populist, I now accept that Republicans will own the government for the rest of my lifetime, the armed forces will become the dominant institution in America, and the Supreme Court will take us back to the originalist position of the Articles of Confederation.
The minority will rule. So be it. It means that a majority of us will have the advantage of adversity. You wake up every morning, look at the paper, cry out, “How can they do this? Where is the love of country? Where is their self-respect?” and feel powerful cardiovascular benefits.
Garrison Keillor is an author, radio personality and weekly columnist for Washington Post News Service. See him at Tacoma’s Pantages Theatre on April 13.