2019-01-09 / Opinions & Letters

Let there be light: Resolve to end this Age of Narcissism

Guest Commentary
Gayle R. Robbins, Vincennes Sun-Commercial

I have this rule while driving: once I turn the key and start the engine, I don’t touch the radio — I don’t scan the channels looking for the “right” station, I don’t adjust the volume, nothing to distract me until I reach my destination or, sometimes, until I can’t take it anymore and have to pull off the road, put the Wrangler in park, and make a change.

This means, occasionally, I’ve had to suffer while I drive.

Just the other day, without thinking about it, I started out on what would be about a 45-minute trip and didn’t realize until it was too late my Sirius radio was tuned to The Grateful Dead channel; I’m not a Grateful Dead fan, and can’t imagine how it happened, but there I was.

I’m pretty sure the band played only one song during the whole trip … but then, all Grateful Dead music sounds the same to me, one song indistinguishable from another.

Sometimes I get suckered in, which is what happened the other night.

I was listening to an Americana music show, hosted by an artist whose songs (some of them anyway) I like. He was playing some of my favorites: Dusty Springfield’s cover of “Son of a Preacher Man,” a new John Hiatt, and especially a live recording of Guy Clark singing his “Dublin Blues,” which may just about be my favorite song, and that my favorite version of it.

I was pretty satisfied. But then the host started talking, and the whole thing went to hell.

He started to pontificate on the state of the world as he saw it, and while there was some of what he said I actually agree with, he totally lost me with the following statement:

“These are bad times, absolutely the worst times ever, there’s never been anything like this.”

Hold on.

I don’t know what it is about people these days who believe that just because they are experiencing it, it has to be the worst (or the even the best) ever — that at no other time in our history has anyone suffered to the extent we suffer today.

As Harry Truman told those high school students who visited him at his library, the only thing new in the world is the history you don’t yet know.

We live in such an Age of Narcissism. We’re so busy staring at ourselves in the mirror we miss opportunities to make the world better.

This is not the worst period in our history, far from it.

True, we face great challenges, but our ancestors faced far greater, and while they failed at some they more often triumphed — even saving the country from extinction a time or two.

That’s something we should resolve to remember.

Speaking of resolutions, I haven’t made a New Year’s resolution in quite some time, decades even, now that I think about it.

When I was a youngster I always made some kind of resolution, some vow to become a better person, and then cynicism struck me; cynicism can be as hard on a boy as puberty — even worse, as you eventually outgrow puberty.

Cynicism led to my making resolutions just to see how quickly I could break them, with my best time about a minute and a half. It could have been better but I got distracted; it was New Year’s Eve, after all.

I expect New Year’s resolutions end up making liars of us all, as it’s always hard to admit failure; when asked we lie and claim we didn’t break our resolution because we didn’t make one in the first place — though of course we did.

There’s even something narcissistic about making New Year’s resolutions, this belief self-improvement is something so easily accomplished you can do it solely by writing down what you intend to do to be a better person.

Inevitably, later on, you find yourself trying to remember where you put that piece of paper.

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