Years ago, there was a comedy/satire/news show on TV called That Was the Week That Was. It started in England (where else?), then migrated here and ran here from 1964-65, my junior year in college. "Weekend Update" on SNL and The Daily Show and The Colbert Report and others owe their lives to TWTWTW. (Link to YouTube Clips)
Well, we've just had one of those weeks, sort of. Shall I tell you a story? (I will not include medical, aging-parent, or other grim news--just some superficial things that are not really all that superficial.)
- We learned that our favorite local movie theater was closing--the Cleveland Cinemas at Chapel Hill. (I blogged earlier in the week about this--so no repeat here.)
- One of our cars died. Guess what that meant?
- Friday night, out at Summit Mall (we like to hang out in West Akron now and then), we saw a dark sign on a bright store: The Williams-Sonoma store is closing. We often shopped there--mostly because we knew that whatever (non-perishable) we bought there was going to last the rest of our lives. Now, the closest one is up in Beachwood...
- Today, Sunday, I opened the pages of the Arts section of the Cleveland Plain Dealer (where I review a book about once a month) to discover that my most recent editor there, Karen Long, is leaving the paper to take another position in town with the Anisfeld-Wolf Book Awards. I've worked with Karen for eight years; she has become a good friend whose keen eye and kind heart I've come to cherish. I know the work of her successor--Joanna Connors--very well (she has written on the Arts page for years) and know the Books pages are in good hands. But still ...
In this most acquisitive culture we live in--a culture which often confers status on folks not for who they are but for what they have--we sometimes forget a simple--and uncomfortable--truth. Life is not at all about acquiring things. The nice warm bath of endorphins and serotonin in which you splash like a kid with a new rubber duckie when you get the newest iPhone or car or flat-screen or North Face jacket or first edition (or whatever) soon cools--very soon, actually--and you find yourself back in the cool Apple Store, drawing another warm bath.
No, life is not about acquiring. It is about losing. Throughout your life you slowly (and sometimes abruptly) lose what matters most to you--youth, health, loved ones, energy, mobility, memory. I think of my dear mother, 93, who has lost her parents, brother, husband, niece, and virtually all of her friends. She can do but a tiny fraction of what she always loved to do. A tiny fraction.
Even the very young experience this. They leave home for kindergarten, the comforts of elementary school for the more stressful middle and high schools; when they graduate, they leave behind many friends they will rarely see again. This will happen again if they graduate from college. And on and on and on it goes ...
Our "losses" this week were minimal--trivial--hardly worth agonizing about. But even small losses for us are major ones for, say, the employees at Williams-Sonoma. I talked to one clerk out there who had no idea what he was going to do now; he loved that job.
And--even more affecting, I think: These small losses are the shadows of the larger ones--looming on the horizon, the sinking sun behind them--moving toward us with a speed we find alarming.