Five things that made me sad in 2009:
▼ The U. S. Presidency, with all its trappings, its outrageous demands, and its arrogated power, took Barack Obama prisoner early on, and has now got him chained, against the will of many who elected him. This is not to say that Mr. Obama isn't a vast improvement over his predecessor in matters of rhetoric and motive, only that the position has overwhelmed the man.
▼ People who profess to love books, and read a great many of them, embraced the Kindle and other e-readers, which offer no perceptible benefit to the act and art of reading itself (as opposed to the easy selling, distribution, and transport of digitized texts), thereby proving that the lure of novelty attracts all kinds of fish.
▼ That the worst recession in my lifetime has not resulted in any significant structural change to a heartless, mindless economic system which makes all of us -- even the fat cats sitting on top of the heap -- look like gerbils spinning their little exercise wheels.
▼ So many of my friends and former colleagues who lost their jobs are still unemployed, and so many of those who still have their jobs find those jobs less rewarding and more stressful than before.
▼ A majority of my fellow citizens cannot believe that the human assault on our Earthly environment will lead to catastrophe if we don't impose limits on our behavior. Instead, they believe technology, which has evolved far more rapidly than we have, will save us.
Five things that made me glad in 2009:
▲ I lost my job working for a big company operating on a set of principles which made me feel uncomfortable and inauthentic and found a job with a small publisher whose ethos is based on a passion for good books and a genuine respect for the community of independent booksellers. Which makes me one lucky bastard.
▲ Renewed and deepening friendships, finding dear people, many of whom I hadn't seen for ages, or only sporadically, whose support, kindness, and good will raised me up, and continues to do so.
▲ The abundance of good music in concert halls and clubs, good new books and good old books, wonderful art, powerful theater -- even some decent movies -- all of which testify to the innate and irrepressible creativity of the human spirit, thus inspiring me to dance, and sing, and write, and laugh, as though there were no tomorrow.
▲ This little house, this yard, this lake, these North Jersey hills, the surviving trees, and all the creatures that share this neighborhood with me, even some of the human ones, who, despite their flaws and foibles, are my closest kin, and without whom I could not survive.
▲ Regaining a sense of wonder, a sense of the sacred, without needing to name it precisely, or make a system out of it, or foist it on others. Feeling in my bones that human life is miraculous, despite all of the anti-god and pro-god chatter, which seems to me to confuse the issue, as well as the participants in the debate.
Like every one of the fifty-five years before it, I would not have traded a single moment of this past year for anything in the world.