Interesting Times

by Peter Wallace, © 2007

We’re told that there is an ancient Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times.” Not being either ancient or Chinese, I can’t verify the accuracy of that story, but frankly, who cares. It’s a perfect description of the modern world: interesting times.

It would be fruitful to discuss the big-picture goings on in the world, which are certainly interesting. But somehow, it’s almost more instructive to look at little incidents to make the case that these are indeed the interesting times the Chinese curser was referring to.

For example, last week there was a headline in the paper. I didn’t read the article, because I felt I had seen enough. It said that scientists had determined that time traveling into the past was probably impossible. Even for Michael J. Fox. I added that last part. I mean, really… did scientists really spend their time studying that?

This week, a poor guy flying from New Delhi to London ended up sitting next to a dead person, who kept sliding off onto the floor. And, he, meaning the non-dead person, had purchased a first class ticket! I hope they give him — and again, I mean the non-dead person — extra peanuts.

Some young people in Germany were being sought for questioning for painting swastikas on sheep. That act poses many questions at so many levels that it’s hard to even begin, other than to say that it supports the claim that we live in interesting times.

Also in Germany, a brothel is offering senior citizens a 50% discount each afternoon. It’s odd that we, sitting here in Wisconsin, would even hear about such a thing, but there you have it. I guess it’s kind of an early-bird special.

One of our presidential candidates referred to a difficult situation as a “tar baby,” and then sincerely apologized for it, even though the dictionary includes the following under the term “tar baby”: “a situation, problem, or the like, that is almost impossible to solve or to break away from.” It reminds me of the guy a few years ago who got in so much trouble for using the term “niggardly,” which is defined as, “reluctant to give or spend; stingy; miserly.” Neither term really has anything to do with race, and yet, both men apologized profusely for using words that other people apparently are sensitive about. Interesting times.

Meanwhile, my alma mater won the boys’ basketball tournament again this year. We were the Oshkosh High School Indians, but they are now the Oshkosh West High School Wildcats. It is apparently wrong to equate Native Americans with wholesome athletic competition, but fine to equate them with gambling.

But, spring is here, and in the long run, all of those other things don’t seem to matter much when the grass turns green, the birds start nesting, and the warm sun feels so good on our bare arms.

After all, we do have the right to bare arms.


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