Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Morning Thanks--a little more art



I'm really tired of Bain Capital.  I don't fault Gov. Romney for his gadzillions, and I'm absolutely sure that there are people--even thousands of them--whose jobs or businesses or wherewithal were saved by the artful investing of Romney at Bain.  I'm absolutely positive he did miraculous work there, and he was, to some, a Godsend.

What's more, 8.2% unemployment is just the pits. I have no experience with joblessness in my life, but I have known it affecting others, people close to me, and it's not pretty. I don't doubt that there are millions of working men and women in this country who are hurting because this depressed economy simply can't get up out of bed. I wish Obama could jump start this whole machine somehow, but I don't think he can.

Maybe the true business of America is business.  But I don't think so.

Today, Writer's Almanac claims, is the 61st anniversary of the release of J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye, not one of my favorite books of all time, but a novel that sticks with me gamely. Don't mark me among those whose life was changed by Holden Caulfield--it wasn't. The first time I read it, I wondered what all the fuss was really about--some sniveling adolescent with a mammoth wounded child syndrome?  Give me a break.

But Holden Caulfield stays around and stays around and stays around.  He's in me, one of the characters who people the museum I carry around in my consciousness, as real:  "that kid's got Holden Caulfield in him."  He's on the yardstick by which I understand myself and others.

My mother knew only a few Dutch words, but one was zannik, which she laid on me more than once, I'm sure.  "Don't zannik," she'd bark, which meant, don't whine, don't complain, don't play the stupid victim.  My mother wouldn't have liked Holden for a ton of reasons, but I'm sure she would laid into him too.

And yet, like all of us, even though he does all that zannik-ing, all he wants is something good, something pure, something whole.  All he wants is a return guilelessness and innocence. He wants simply not to be phony, but to be someone, someone good:

I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody's around -- nobody big, I mean -- except me. And I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff -- I mean if they're running and they don't look where they're going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That's all I'd do all day. I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all.
Somewhere between his infernal whining and his standing there at a cliff with open arms, a kind of savior and hero, stands the fulsome character of Holden Caulfield, who is, like all of us, both marvelously and annoyingly complex.  He is art, of course.  He is worth nothing at all and millions, at the very same time.  He is not business.  Try as they like, not Wells Fargo, not Citibank, not J. P. Morgan--none of them could have created him.

The Presidential campaign so far has been, in its entirety, about buying and selling, about jobs and the economy, about each of us getting our share of the economic pie.  I for one wish there were more to it.

Because there is.  This morning, I'm thankful for art, even for Holden Caulfield.

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