HARVARD SQUARE COMMENTARY

August 20, 2007
From the Editor

John Turner


I made it back from Chicago on Saturday, adding another thousand miles to my driving total. I calculate that I must have driven at least 825,000 miles in my lifetime. At an average speed of 40 miles per hour (probably too high) that adds up to 20,625 hours or 2,578 eight-hour days. That's a total of seven years driving eight hours every day. I don't know whether that's more, or less, than average for a person of my age. But, it's quite a bit of time devoted to sitting behind a steering wheel. It has been educational, after a fashion. I've seen quite a few things and formed judgments about the world based on what I've seen. But, all in all, I suspect I would have been better off if I had driven less. I can't be sure about that, though.

My cars during that driving history have used about 40,000 gallons of gasoline. There can be little doubt the environment for humans would be more healthy if they hadn't used that much.

In America, we tend not to be aware of what we do by living, as we think, normally.

"Normal" becomes a very strange word if you think about it for any length of time.

On Saturday evening, being a little weary from my drive, I watched Thank You For Smoking on HBO, which was a perfect film for my mood.  I guess you could say the movie was satirical, but not completely so. It made the point that our moralistic crusades are not as clear cut as we tend to think they are, and that  reasonably good people -- whatever that means -- get caught up in activities that are pretty hard to justify. In other words, we don't know exactly what we're doing, and no matter how hard we try to find out we're not going to be perfectly successful.

"Perfect" -- there's another strange world for you.

Jane Austen said that any baby born with ten fingers and ten toes will be thought to be a very fine baby indeed, and that was the case with my daughter's new son who came into the world on August 14th at about five o'clock in the afternoon. He weighed seven pounds, three ounces, which I guess is a fairly normal weight.  Immediately, speculation began about whom he resembles. This seems to be an irresistible human propensity and, to some extent, runs against my thought that a new baby looks more like a baby than anything else.

I wonder what new babies think about. They sometimes have puzzled expressions on their faces as though they are bewildered about what they have got themselves into. Occasionally, they exhibit distress because they have bothersome activities proceeding in their stomachs. But, mostly, they sleep, and then, they strike adult observers as being very small.

I asked Jack, the new arrival's three year old brother, whether the baby was smaller than he expected. He said yes. Already, he feels more akin to the grownup world than he does to the realm of the newborn.

When I reflect it's likely this child will live into the 22nd century, I'm mesmerized by thoughts of what he might experience. I hope it will be a good world for him and that he, in turn, will be good for it.


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