HARVARD SQUARE COMMENTARY

August 18, 2008
From the Editor

John Turner


The summer rolls along and as we move into the second half of August, we are driven to face the truth that summer will be coming to an end in a month and a half or so. For some reason, I regret its passing more this year than I have in the past.

I used to think of autumn as the best season. I liked to see the days turn crisp. The coloring leaves spoke to me of vigorous adventures, the beginning of a new academic season, the renewal of a struggle to make something better of my mind than I had before. But, now, I would like to see summer drift along indefinitely, to get up each morning to about the same weather as was delivered by the day before, to move into a kind of timelessness. Truth is, I grow weary of time. There's nothing I can do about it, but I suppose I'm free to view it as I wish.

I have always dreamed of entering a kind of retreat, to be able to experience twenty years or so while the world went through only a second. When I think of doing that I'm never sure how I would come back to the world after my twenty years had passed but I know for sure I'd be willing to risk possible downturns for the sake of the experience.

Until a couple months ago, I looked forward to November and the presidential election. I wanted to see the Republicans and all they stood for rejected by the American people. I still want to see that happen. I think it will make for a better country, at least as I view it. But, I'm now less eager to be aligned with the American people than I once was. What good does it do me to live among people who think as I do?

Yesterday on Book TV I was watching Bill Bishop, author of a book titled The Big Sort, which has the subtitle: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America Is Tearing Us Apart. A telephone call took me away from my TV before I heard all of Bishop's comments, but it was clear from I what did hear that he sees the clustering of people in like-minded groups as a very bad thing. One reason is that he believes it leads to political paralysis. About that, I suppose he's right. All the same, the last few months have pushed me towards understanding that we can't find adequate meaning in an improved political environment. It would be good to have our government stop killing so many people. It would good to have better paved roads. But for most of us, something more is required.

Like most of my fellow citizens I haven't worked out in my mind just what that is. I think it has to be involved in a restoration of the environment. I think it has to carry with it a more active sense of literature. I think it has to build respect for the meaning of words. I think it demands sharing our fears and worries more honestly with others. But what is it that puts all that together? And who is it that might help in the construction? Those are the questions that bedevil me, and I haven't answered them as I should have. But, at least, I know I can't give them up.


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