Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Stop the Politics, I Wanna Get Off

It's hard for a political junkie like myself, with a penchant for economics debate, to admit that, in fact, there may be more to life than expressing outrage at misbegotten policy or countering misinformation so dominant in public life. But there you are. For this moment, I'm done.

My doneness likely will last a day or two. Yet a couple of minutes away from examining countervailing opinions on vital issues that leads to nothing ever happening to make the lives of Americans better can't be a bad thing. It might be healthy.

Instead, let's look for a minute at what makes life worthwhile. I consider myself an optimistic person in spite of how much I enjoy chronicling the ridiculous things politicians do, and I think the reason for that -- being optimistic, I mean -- is that I get a lot of satisfaction out of life.

I'm currently pretty happy. That's because I'm essentially healthy in spite of having too many bad habits over the years, and while I've made mistakes in both my personal and professional life, I've never had to pay the ultimate penalty: lose a job or a mate that was absolutely necessary for my success or well-being. I guess that's probably the definition of being lucky.

Generally speaking, friends and family are the key to happiness. I like who I get to hang with, I like them very much, and I appreciate that they were even there for me to run into. Again, dumb luck. I haven't been as lucky with my own siblings -- neither of my brothers talk to me, for reasons too unfortunate to relate here -- but I have male friends that more than fill the void. I have several, in fact, that are, undeniably, my brothers.

I've generally lived in small towns most of my life, except for two and a half years in Tokyo, which took care of my big-city fix for life. What a place! Now I live in the quaint wine-country town of Sonoma, a town that is small-town America and still whip-smart enough to know that we're just one Walmart away from turning into the Mall of the Americas. Sonoma bans large chain stores or big signs. Instead we have little shops and great restaurants and a nice town square. Okay, we do have a McDonald's, but what's one lousy hamburger among friends?

My days are filled with writing, reading, playing music, walking the town, heading to the gym, shooting a round of golf, spending time with my girlfriend and her family, and taking pleasure in the small things in life, such as walking to the market to buy that tomato I forgot or finally figuring out what's wrong with the dishwasher.

I've got a world-class city, San Francisco, just an hour away and one of the best coasts in the world -- including the headlands of Marin, Sonoma, and Mendocino counties -- close enough for a day trip. Northern California is, by and large, a liberal bastion, so I find like-minded individuals in great supply. Even the conservatives around here make sense, if you can believe that. And what's more, the Giants won the World Series two years back and the Forty-Niners -- I might just call them "my Niners" again -- are a game away from the Super Bowl after so many years in the wilderness.

What may be the most important aspect of my happiness is that, while having lived a modest life with modest goals, I'm filled with memories of some pretty fine adventures, and I'm also skilled in filtering out any of the dumb things I've done. (Let's say I'm blessed with non-total recall.) And though never wildly successful at anything, I lived a frugal life and have a small pension. If my luck continues, I won't run out of money before I die.

Life is good. For me, for now.

In a way, that's the problem. I know what a good life looks like. I know what a decent set of human values feels like. I understand love, loyalty, devotion, generosity, friendship, and civility. When I see the opposite expressed, I'm astonished, angry, and horrified anew. (Full disclosure: I have been caught being petty, venal, pigheaded.)

I believe that we humans understand what value there is in a life well-lived, with or without religion, with or without riches, with or without dumb luck. We can, and many do, live an honest life of which we can be proud.

So recognizing how well one can manage in what is, to a great extent, hostile territory (it is a dangerous world), I'm easily disturbed by the outlandish missteps I witness our leaders taking on our behalf.

If I begin to list the public-policy outrages we witness day in and day out, I'm back to politics, so I'll stop now. Except to remind all of us that we don't need religion for the Golden Rule to come into play: It should be at work, everywhere, everyday. That it isn't is a tragedy, played over and over.

So, my non-political reflection today is that if I feel fortunate -- and I do -- then I must want that for every living soul, as well. And I do.

No comments:

Post a Comment