January 7, 2008
From the Editor

John Turner

On a new web site called "bigthink.com" I saw Robert Thurman, professor of Buddhist Studies at Columbia University, explain that a person should be so happy that even if bad people kill him he should die happy. It's a nice idea but I'm not sure many people know how to pull it off. Dying at the hands of a bad person somehow just seems to send droopy thoughts into the mind. Is that unnatural?

On 60 Minutes, I saw Pervez Musharraf explaining to Lara Logan that the death of Benazir Bhutto was completely her own fault. He left me wondering if the person who killed her might not have to share some small part of the blame. But such a thought shows my inability to enter into the intellectual processes of subcontinent dictators.

Being next door to New Hampshire, we get many of the political commercials directed at our neighbors. One from John McCain has left me a little puzzled. He says he is the same as he was during the 2004 primary, but now he's better prepared. You would think that right when he was delivering the message he would have been assaulted by the thought that a person can't be the same and be better. That he wasn't bothers me about him. If I were ever to have advisors and they gave me something that illogical to blast out to the whole world, I think I would say, "Hey, wait a minute. This doesn't make any sense." But, apparently, things like that are not said during campaigns.

In Pascal's Pensees, I read entry No. 358, which points out that "Man is neither angel nor brute, and the unfortunate thing is that he who would act the angel acts the brute." It's true that there's something horrible about purity. It's not a state that fits with humanity. I'm afraid that we Americans may be more addicted to the myth of purity than are other people in the world, and it works to turn us if not into brutes into a pack of jerks. It's about time we got over it -- cold turkey, so to speak.

While watching football over the weekend I was perplexed by how often success or failure is literally a matter of inches. You would think that in making first downs, for example, a team would succeed or fail by yards, and that is the case quite often. But it's also common for a team to fail to make a first down -- one that could determine the game, and a whole season -- by a single inch.  I wish a brilliant mathematician would explain to me why that happens as frequently as it does.

I watched the new version of Law and Order, in which Jack McCoy has been elevated to district attorney because Arthur Branch, playing Fred Thompson, is off running for president. The new assistant DA seems designed to be even more crazy than McCoy was. Whether this will work, or not, remains to be seen. But I suppose we should remember that Law and Order has been going for a long time.

I hope all of you will read Jerry Richard's letter this week about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. It strikes me as being well-balanced and a good place from which to begin a discussion about what's the next thing to be done.

I seem to have made the transition to the new year this time with less of a propensity than in the past to think it's still the old year. I don't know what that means.

Send us your thoughts.


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