If it wasnt for the optimist, the pessimist would never know how happy he wasnt.
- Henry David Thoreau
I save things - everything but money, it seems, judging by the balance in my post-Christmas checkbook. But I do mean everything else.
After my annual attic search for Christmas decorations and the occasional right-sized box for the gifts I didnt bag, I was appalled at the number of warped, broken and otherwise defective ornaments I had saved for another year - in case I fell on harder times and needed to refresh the crippled ones with an extra eye, bead, sequin or two.
And boxes? Im living proof that habits die hard. Ive lived in my current residence almost 20 years, but with four years as a Girl Scout, and 15 moves in my 24 years of mostly military marriage, I guess Im still being prepared for that 16th move or other eventuality when the right-sized box might be needed.
I also save quips, columns and anything else I read or someone passes along for my information or enjoyment. Apparently, when it comes to the clever, inspirational or potential for a quip or column of my own, once is not enough. I save them all in case I have time to read or use them again. Lucky for me I have enough boxes to store them in.
And since Im on the subject of old things, and were all on the precipice of a new year, I thought Id share a few end-of-year oldies to see how they compare with what todays events signal may lie ahead.
Specifically, are we individuals or citizens of America better off at the beginning of 2004 than we were, say, 30 years ago? Or is the spiral pointing toward less-than-prosperous times? As the old slogan for artificial respiration goes, is it still out goes the bad air, in comes the new, or does it look like the patient may not survive?
As the year 2000 drew to a close, and the economy began signaling another cyclical downturn, News-week columnist Robert Samuelson injected this note into rampant predictions of approaching gloom:
Cheer up, America! Its not as bad as you think. In the last half-century Americans have achieved unprecedented prosperity. We are healthier, work at less-exhausting jobs, and live longer than ever. Our government provides a safety net for the elderly and the poor, most of our discriminations have diminished, and, in short, America has become a vastly better place.
If we could add a postscript to Samuelsons piece, following the events of Sept. 11, 2001, most would agree that with progress in the war on terror, the new Office of Homeland Security and heightened vigilance throughout the country and the world, America is also a much safer place.
But leave it to National Public Radios Car Talk hosts to come up with some reassuring comparisons to convince us that, although things are not as they once were, there is always a handy, dandy substitute for whatever angers, ails or annoys us. Their list, comparing 2002 with 1972, Ive updated to reflect the new years date:
1974: Long hair; 2004: Longing for hair
1974: Keg; 2004: EKG
1974: Acid rock; 2004: Acid reflux
1974: Seeds and stems; 2004: Roughage
1974: Going to a new, hip joint; 2004: Receiving a new hip joint
1974: Disco; 2004: Costco
1974: Parents begging you to get a hair cut; 2004: Children begging you to get their heads shaved
1974: Whatever; 2004: Depends
Wherever in the above list or life you find yourself, perhaps you can still look back, and ahead, and agree with the Russian girl Tatiana who, in comparing the economic situation of her post-Communist country with the past, smiled and said, Things are not always so bad around.
And on this New Years Eve, Tatianas words are my wish for you and yours, this year and all the years you have left, to work, to dream, to live and love.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local freelance writer. E-mail comments to seabara at aol.com.)
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