I’ll start this week with the cat update because this picture just makes me want to cuddle.
There’s a great proverb I once read, supposedly from ancient Greece, that says, ‘A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit.’ And that, I think, is the philosophical thought of the week. There’s a lot to be gained from that little proverb. Don’t be discouraged when you don’t see your plans come to fruition–they may have a larger, unseen impact. Don’t be selfish. Caring for others is caring for yourself. The measure of a society is partly what it is but also partly what it hopes to be.
Neither planting a tree nor riding a bike will save the world. But if we all did them, I think we’d be a lot farther along than we are right now. In the words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,/ Is our destined end or way;/ But to act, that each to-morrow/ Find us farther than to-day.” I’ve said before that doing good is often difficult, but sometimes it’s easy. And I think the common sense of kindness is an easy way to do good. It doesn’t take a lot of forethought or prep work. It doesn’t take millions of dollars and an international legally binding agreement. Being kind won’t solve the frankly enormous problems facing the world today. But if we create a society where being kind and being good is the standard, then the big deals will be easier to solve because the people solving them will be good and kind, backed by the expectation of goodness and kindness of their countries.
It seems both futile and naïve to just ask people to be good and kind. ‘Realists’ would say, if they deigned to respond at all, that we simply must live in the world as we find it. And I know. I’ve occasionally referred to myself as a pessimistic idealist or something along those lines. I’m infinitely skeptical but I cling fiercely to optimism. The news from the US this week, generally, had very little kindness or goodness in it. Racists are racists and rapists are rapists. Then I think of Théoden’s line (because life is just an excuse to quote Lord of the Rings) when he says, “What can men do against such reckless hate?” So I call on you, like Aragorn, to ride out with me. We live in the world. But we can also change it.
Enough of that. I promise no philosophizing in next week’s post. Here’s this week’s review of television.
Past: Monk (2002-2009)
This is one of the few shows that I watched in its entirety as it aired. And, though I’m far from comfortable with TV favorites, it is certainly one of my most beloved. It’s funny (I see it sort of as the father of quirky crime dramas) but also deeply touching. It is, overall, a story of someone who interacts with the world with great difficulty but for whom love changes everything. Suffice to say, it is an excellent show and I definitely miss it now it’s gone.
Present: 3rd Rock from the Sun (1996-2001)
This is a silly sitcom from the 90s featuring some well-known actors and some other randos. It never fails to make me laugh out loud. As a story about literal aliens, I appreciate its outsider’s evaluation of the myriad nonsensical puzzle pieces of living in human society–particularly the same one in which I live (albeit a bit removed in time). It’s lighthearted, quick, and all-around ridiculous. What’s not to love.