Songs, said Joni Mitchell, to aging children come, and I am nothing if not an aging child: I occasionally have to slap down my fourteen-year-old self for cropping up at inopportune moments, and bits and pieces from periods of comparable immaturity are regular features of my mental landscape, so I figure I'm due for a song at some point. While I wait, though, I am dealt a steady run of life lessons, some appreciated, some resisted, but all probably inevitable.

Gordon Gekko is not a friend of mine, exactly, but I figured I understood what he was getting at with that "Greed, for lack of a better word, is good" business: while I'm not Randian enough to dismiss altruism as the very distillation of evil, it's always seemed perfectly obvious to me that self-interest, with variable levels of enlightenment to inform it, was sufficiently legitimate a motivation for most of us. This attitude works nicely for me, but apparently it wouldn't work on Wall Street worth a damn: actions, I have always believed, come with consequences attached, and it would never occur to me to sell pigs in pokes. Meanwhile, the Junior Gekko League came up with nonsense like "collateral debt obligations" and "equity indexed annuities," and paid for it when people realized the true value of what they'd been sold, which was as close to nothing as could possibly be contrived. However, I found the payback unsatisfying emotionally: being made redundant, as the British say, is indeed a punishment, but I was hoping for something a bit closer to abject humiliation.

Of couse, if I want abject humiliation for myself, I need only drift back into the dating arena. The advice from the field is always the same: "You've got to follow your heart." Unfortunately, I've come to the conclusion that my heart has shit for brains: the silly organ — and it's not even the silliest one I have — invariably fixates on those who are out of my league, or out of my reach, or out of my age bracket, or any combination thereof. During the past year I was hoping I had sufficiently suppressed that sort of thing. I was in error.

Any disappointment with myself, however, pales in comparison to the disgruntlement I felt during the Permanent Political Campaign, 2008 edition; it got to the point where I avoided all forms of commercial television, lest I be subjected to something containing the phrase "I approved this message." What's worse, relatively few Congressional incumbents were sent packing, despite malfeasance up to and including handing out billions of dollars to the aforementioned Junior Gekko League. As for the Presidential race, it was never that much of a race: given the choice of a Democrat (Obama) or a wannabe-Democrat (McCain), folks predictably decided to opt for the Democrat. Harry Truman understood that, half a century ago.

So I didn't finish 2008 on a high note, exactly, although the Thunder were obliging enough to win the New Year's Eve game against Golden State, which helps. And anyway, I can't return: as Joni Mitchell taught me years ago, I can only look behind from where I came.

The Vent

  1 January

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 Copyright © 2009 by Charles G. Hill