I am, as I have often observed on this blog, a temperamentally optimistic person. Told that my birthday present is a room full of manure and a shovel, I ask, "Where's the pony?" Faced with the appalling horrors of this world, the poverty, the injustice, the smug self-satisfaction of those who benefit from that injustice, my defensive reaction after a while is to divert myself until I have regained my composure so that I can once again confront the world with a smile and cheery words. But lately, my efforts at diversion on this blog have been failing of their purpose.
I have tried talking about my viola, always in the past a sure winner. I have tried reprinting some of my favorite essays from my files, rather like an aging pop composer who sits at the piano, hands idly massaging the keys, saying "And then I wrote." I have tried hunting up delicious passages from Hobbes and Plato, both endlessly diverting authors. But the sheer bloody-mindedness of the corporate Masters of the Universe, public intellectuals, and politicians in this great nation defeats me.
I have quizzed my memory to determine whether the public discourse really is worse than it was when I was young, as it seems to me to be, and I find it genuinely difficult to tell. Perhaps when I was younger, I was sure there was time enough in my future life for improvement, whereas now, when I cannot be certain that I shall see more than one additional presidential cycle or Olympic Games, I grow despondent at the thought that I will pass from the scene with this country as appalling as it now is.
During the Stalin era, it is said, some Russian intellectuals performed an "inner migration," withdrawing from their world into literature and music and art. But I find that I cannot embark on such a migration.
Of course, for the first thirteen days in April, I shall be completely beyond the reach of television and the Internet, confronted only by the timeless beauty of the African plains. When I return, I shall write at length about what I have seen, accompanied by pictures taken with my IPhone. Perhaps that will suffice to rebalance my humours, making me sanguine and phlegmatic rather than bilious and choleric.