Welcome to a special edition of Friday Notes. This isn’t just the end of the week or even just of the month (although both are true). It’s also the end of the year!
So this edition of Notes is a reflection on a kind of weird year.
I think many of us were disappointed that 2021 didn’t set things back on a sane track as much as we might have expected. The stench from the nightmare of politics in 2016–2020 hasn’t dissipated, and the sheer unabashed evil lingers. The infection of COVID seems to reflect the infection of culture — a disease of anger, hate, and polarization.
A disease, in fact, comprised of ignorance, stupidity, and greed. A disease far more likely than COVID to end life as we know it.
Let’s face it squarely: The Life-As-We-Know-It train left the station several years ago, and there’s not much sign it’ll ever return. In our cultural navel-gazing, narcissism, and lust for feels, we lost ourselves and possibly our country.
Possibly even the world.
I think many feel this on some level, and it may account for the malaise so many report experiencing. “Why didn’t things get better?” Answer: Because we didn’t fix anything. Our half-assed response to a home-grown terrorist attack on the nation’s capitol only leaves the doors open for other attempts.
And so the stench lingers.
Well, dang, that was a depressing way to begin a post, but it was a depressing way to begin a year. Somehow 2021 passed quickly with very little of import happening, yet the January 6th terrorist attack seems so long ago.
I suspect all our media distractions over-occupy our minds, fill them with static, and make it seem as if a lot has happened. But in reality it’s been something of a year of nothing and same-old-same-old. We’re still wearing masks. The press can’t quite break their trump addiction. Political correctness continues to make bad movies and TV shows.
I can’t help but wonder what kind of a future we’re creating.
But enough of that, let’s talk about me. (It’s my blog, after all.)
Honestly, I shouldn’t complain. I love being retired. So much time to read, program, and write blog articles. Or just nap. Growing older has its literal pains and disappointments (and naps). Modern culture seems further and further away and not for me, and I find our political and social antics trying and dismaying.
My little world, especially my inner life, is pretty damn good. There is also that I’m a highly privileged (if not comparatively pampered) white male who has never worried about a roof, a meal, a bed, or a paycheck. (Or, for that matter, a car, a TV, etc.) That is something I remind myself of a lot these days. My physical and mental existence is comparative gravy. (It may have a few lumps, but it’s still damn tasty.)
Other than never having found True Love™, I really don’t have complaints about my life. I’ve had, and have, good friends, and the world contains much beauty. And dogs. Just yesterday I had a delightful lunch with my best friend (BentleyMom) at a place we’d never tried before (the conversation and food were delicious, although the onion rings gave me some gas). That’s kind of our thing, trying new places. Such times make life worthwhile. I’m so grateful for friends.
After all, it’s the small things in life, not the big things, that add depth and texture (and fun).
On a more pedestrian note, the year has brought some wonderful literary discoveries my way. Topping that list is Octavia E. Butler, an extraordinary science fiction writer I’ve posted about several times. My only regret is having waited so long to explore her work. She’s one of the best science fiction authors I’ve read.
I also discovered how amazing Agatha Christie is. I’ve long been a fan of her Sherlock Holmes analogue, Hercule Poirot, but it wasn’t until this year that I dove into her other work. Which turned out to be every bit as appealing as her Poirot stories. There is good reason she’s called the Queen of Mystery. Over the course of the year, I’ve managed to read just about everything she wrote.
Two other authors I’ve long know about but never explored: G.K. Chesterton and E.W. Hornung. The former, among his other work, is known for his fictional Catholic priest detective, Father Brown. The latter is known for his equally fictional gentleman burglar, A.J. Raffles. Both date to the beginning of the 20th century (Raffles first appeared in 1898, Father Brown in 1910). One thing that’s interesting about these stories is the language and environment of the time. Christie’s early work has that same distance of age, and while it can sometimes be opaque (due to long lost topic references and terms), it adds an interesting flavor to the work.
Looking at the 128 library books in my Libby timeline for 2021, I was more into mystery than science fiction. There was a lot of Christie, but also a lot of Lawrence Block (see All the Christie), Jonathan Gash (see First Person Murder), and Harry Kemelman (see Monday the Blogger Posted).
Those library books are by no means the only books I read, but there’s no history for Apple e-books (I bought and read a bunch of those), and there were some I read for free via Amazon Prime (their selection of free books isn’t good, though).
There were even a few physical books, either plucked from my bookshelves or loaned to me by friends. In the latter category, I just finished How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence (2018) by Michael Pollan, and author I’ve enjoyed before. Very interesting. Controlled therapy by trained guides has shown some astonishing results for addiction and depression. Timothy Leary put research of psychedelics into a bad light back in the 1960s, and the counterculture ran with Leary’s ball making it all the worse. Only now is such research becoming possible again, and it shows some potential. I’m struck by something said in the book that these drugs come with a lot of fool’s gold, but there is also some real gold there.
There were a number of other science books. I’ve posted about many of them.
All-in-all, it occurs to me that I’ve done a lot of reading in 2021. The 128 library books alone amount to a book every 2.78 days. (I can easily burn through an Agatha Christie novel in a day.) If the other book sources amount to even half as much, it’s down to 1.9 days per book.
I’m not bragging; I’m retired! (And reading is one of my favorite things. In fact, reading and those lunches I mentioned are the best parts of my retired life.)
You can see, though, why I smile and shake my head a bit about expressed efforts to read at least a book or two a month. Amateurs! 😀
As far as this blog is concerned, this is the 125th (and final) post of the year. That’s noticeably down from the 160 and 177 posts from 2019 and 2020, respectively. I have, to some extent, because of the things I mentioned at the beginning, been a bit off my feed.
I’ve enjoyed the eight+ years of idle retirement, but I have a sense it’s time to think about shaking things up somehow. I think I need to look for something very new in 2022.
Speaking of which, for someone born in the 1950s, the year 2022 is somewhat bizarre. I can remember wondering if 1984 would be anything like the book, and there was a time that the year 2000 seemed very far off.
We’ve come a long way, baby! (How’s that for an outdated phrase?)
In any event, here we are, about to step into the year 2022. Remember that New Year’s Eve is amateur night, so take my advice and stay home! (If you’ve taken my other advice you keep champagne on hand for those moments you want to celebrate.)
Be safe, be warm, be happy, and be good.
Stay reading, my friends! Go forth and spread beauty and light.