Balancing Act: The Newsletter (No. 200, April 2016)

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This is the 200th edition of Balancing Act, and I'll ask your indulgence with me changing the format on this occasion.

Sometime late in 2000 I began this newsletter with the intent of providing a reliable, free, monthly missive to share my thoughts about the human experience. (There was one "special edition" immediately after 9/11.) We've changed the format from text to HTML along the way, and altered some columns (for example, I used to write "The Language Doctor"). But it's been a consistent philosophy, and readership through various avenues is around 20,000. (I'm old fashioned, I simply count subscribers, not those who actually open it or how many words they read or whether they're day dreaming while they read it.)

I was 54 when I began it, and celebrated my 70th birthday in early March this year in New York City. Time flies when you're having fun!

The great preponderance of people who write me about the newsletter have nice things to say or want to add their experiences. A very few who disagree with something I write threaten that they'll unsubscribe from my free newsletter! Even Bentley and Buddy Beagle get a kick out of that.



I don't believe the world has become a more dangerous place—after all, I've lived through grammar school air raid drills, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and Viet Nam; through three major assassinations; and through the ghettos burning. I've driven cross-country in the aftermath of 9/11. I've also lived through men landing on the moon, a cure for polio, longer life expectancies, the advent of the internet, the fall of the Berlin Wall and Iron Curtain, and the undisturbed, systematic elections of presidents in the U.S. every four years without tanks in the streets or mass violence.

I do believe the world has become a less congenial place. There is no default expectation of privacy any more. "You're welcome" has been usurped by "No problem." Music changes generationally, but for the first time some of it has embraced violence and the subjugation of women. Political correctness has emasculated free speech, especially on college campuses, where you're free to speak unless the majority disagrees with you. We still are impotent in solving the problem of inferior inner city schools because we fund schools inappropriately. We have seen a victimization mentality erode a "can do" mentality, and tribalism fracture the Great American Melting Pot. I am appalled at "hyphenated-Americans."

Despite the fact that Chicken Little was wrong, as have been his heirs—we have more oil reserves today than ever, we're perfectly capable of feeding the world's population if we choose to, there has been no nuclear war—we listen to alarmists instead of opportunists. Our leaders have led us to the polarization of our society rather than an understanding society. We would rather engage in combat than compromise.


The human condition: Inattention

I'm an optimist. We who live here, in America, reside in the greatest experiment in freedom and liberty in the history of the planet. We are basically a good people, albeit not perfect, and we have shed our blood for those in other lands, we have provided innovation and resources, health care and safety. I'm sometimes disappointed in our foreign and domestic policies, but I'm never embarrassed by our system or what it represents. I'm deeply appreciative that, as an accident of birth, I live here, I've prospered here, and I can help others here.

As we age, our horizon grows closer. There is less distance to travel, less room to maneuver, but if we are energetic and inventive, there remains more than enough space to create meaning. I don't know if people are as disturbed and frightened by death as they are by what they realize they've left undone. A legacy doesn't begin when you die, it began when you were born.

I believe optimism is contagious and infectious, and I've opted to be a carrier. I think life is exciting, every day and, if it isn't, it's our fault for enduring the unhappiness.

The Chinese say that death comes to everyone, but it varies in its significance. I know that prior to death our life is a about meaning. But not "finding" meaning. Our calling is to create meaning.

That's what I've intended to do over these 200 issues, create some meaning that may be of help in your lives. I want to thank you for tagging along. I hope you'll consider reading the next 200.

But I need to stop writing now, because the dogs and I see an empty gate that we absolutely must run through together.




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