…and then I remember thinking to myself: I bet I could write a column about exactly what I was thinking 30 years ago when I was thinking about something that I thought 3 years before that when I think I thought about thinking about infinity.
But they do remind me of something that occurred to me one day about 30 years ago. I was watching on TV one of the great movies of the British new wave of the 1960s. I think it was “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner.” I thought to myself: British acting is simply the best in the world, England is drenched in great acting now. Then I realized it had been for generations–Gielgud, Redgrave, et al. Then I thought: Hmmmm. The rise of England’s acting class the past century seems to coincide perfectly with the fall of its power as a wealthy and powerful nation that made a difference in the world–an exploring nation, a conquering one.
I wondered if the loss of a kind of national manliness, or force, tends to coincide in modern nations with a rise in expertise in the delicate arts. Then I thought: I wonder if in general one can say of Western nations that the loss of one tends to be accompanied by a rise in the other. In the case of England I think that is so.
I have come to hate the banners. No, I don’t smoke. I just believe in the right of people to be human, to be imperfect and messy and flawed. I don’t dislike the banners because they’re prissy bullies, though that is reason enough. I dislike them because their work forces us to look at the shift in values in our country in our time. As I watched the NBC report, I actually thought to myself: I want to make sure I understand. If you smoke a cigarette on a beach in modern America you are harming the innocent. If you have a baby scraped from your womb, you are protecting your freedom. If you sell a pack of cigarettes to a 12-year-old boy you can be jailed, fined and sent to Guantanamo Bay with the other killers. If you sell a pack of contraceptives to a 12 year old boy in modern America you are socially responsible citizen.
I’ll bet with Peggy, she actually does that quizzical upward-look with her forefinger pressed delicately against her fine Irish chin when thinking, all the while a thought-balloon appears over her head just like in the comics.
But then I thought: Nah….