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OPINION | PHILIP MARTIN: Taking stock

by Philip Martin | January 2, 2022 at 1:52 a.m.


While we all have the capacity to change, I think we are who we are by the time we reach adulthood--if we ever reach adulthood. I still feel about most things the same as I did when I was 17 years old.

I know a little more than I did then yet am more aware of all the things I don't know, but am fundamentally the same person--still overestimating and underestimating my abilities in the same ways I always have.

I am at times overly cautious and often fiercely impractical. I still have both the ability to procrastinate and to work hard and long on projects that have no particular purpose except to see them through. I take on too much, not because I don't want to disappoint people but because I don't want to be regarded as the kind of person who disappoints people. I sometimes have trouble uncovering an authentic motive for my actions.

I am still easily and deeply stung by perceived slights. I quietly nurse grudges and am not above enjoying schadenfreude, a crime for which Kierkegaard would have me exiled from human society. I remember everyone who ever insinuated I wasn't good enough.

None of that is going to change. I mean to keep doing what I'm doing and maybe add some more. Naturally there will be corrections and adjustments to the course; I can still learn new skills. My guitar playing is better than it has ever been; maybe I can get competent on bass. If this pandemic ever lifts I might want to take a woodworking class.

I got in a pickup basketball game the other day for the first time in more than 20 years. I was a lot older than the others, and my handle was shakier than anyone knew, but I still had a feel for the flow and geometry of the game, could still see it unfolding, and was confident I knew where to put the ball when it was in my hands. A couple of times the swing reversed and I had a shot. I knocked a couple of jumpers down.

I wasn't going to hustle and claw, to break to the rim like the old days. I practiced social distancing on defense. I was far from the best player on my losing team. But it felt familiar. I caught up with it like an old friend I hadn't seen for decades--the conversation wasn't stilted, we just picked up where we left off.

We might run into each other again, we might not. I'm not going to push it, but it's nice to know things learned early stick around, that bodies in motion tend to stay in motion until those inevitable outside forces arrest them.

But a little friction is a good thing; you always need that resistance, that little bit of pushback, to remind you that it's work, that you're engaged. That you have, as the kids like to say, "agency." That you're not just being swept along, buffeted here and there; you had to make an effort to be here now.

These past 20 months have not been horrible for us, and there is reason to believe the next 20 may be better. Karen thinks I need to get out more but I'm content; the home office works and I have a gym to go to and errands to run each week. We have friends over. We pick our spots to go out.

And it will be that way for a while, so we might as well get used to it. This virus is with us, same as the flu, and we're going to have to learn to adjust to that. Maybe that means getting a vaccination every six months and keeping a mask on hand. Fine.

Maybe that means an extra funeral here and there. That's not fine but there's not much that can be done about it. A smaller, more homogeneous, less self-regarding country might have mandated the virus out of existence, but that's not the way we do things here.

The 30 percent of the country that's not been reached by all the public health messaging will never be reached, and we have to come to grips with that reality. They're not going to be convinced by anything short of close-landing tragedy, and some of them won't even let that faze them.

People still smoke cigarettes, after all.

And I'd be OK with the anti- vaxxers living their lives their way if it was an issue as simple as cigarettes or safety belts, but the truth is they aren't simply assuming a risk to their own health and safety. A lower vaccination rate means a larger pool of potential hosts for a virus, which means more opportunity for it to mutate, which means the possibility that stickier and more deadly strains may develop.

And we know vaccination doesn't necessarily protect you from getting the virus; it just greatly lowers the odds of the virus making you very sick. You're a lot more likely to get very sick from covid if you're not vaccinated. You're a lot more likely to have to go to the hospital, to be put on a ventilator, and to die from it.

So I'll take a shot every Monday if they make it available. And wear a mask when I go to the liquor store, just in case I do get an asymptomatic infection, to decrease the chances of my passing it along to someone more vulnerable.

Because, as misanthropic as I sometimes feel, I don't want other people to die so I can feel a little less uncomfortable in public spaces. I certainly don't want other people to die so I can signal my solidarity with the idiotic and juvenile "Let's Go Brandon" crowd.

So here are a few resolutions I feel OK about making in 2022:

Never to wear any item of clothing bearing a politician's name, a political party's trade dress or slogan.

Not to engage with anyone who thinks memes are a clever way of getting one's point across.

Not to send anyone $5 for shipping and handling for any "free" item.

Not to watch any cable "news" programming except in the case of a fast-breaking event.

Not to read any Young Adult literature.

Not to go to the hospital and bother the professionals busy attending to the covid-stricken and the genuinely ill.

To work hard, drink a little wine and bourbon, read more poetry and less news, finish up a couple of longstanding projects, and to not change, not even a little bit, ever.

pmartin@adgnewsroom.com


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