Point of View: Charity and Pride

I think every now and then — when I’m not in traffic — that we’re an island of sanity in an insane world

The Hamptons, as it were, have been described as a mighty unfriendly “city” in a recent Condé Nast poll, though I’d beg to differ. On the contrary, rather than brutish, I find people here, if not beatific, quite giving.

So much so that I think every now and then — when I’m not in traffic — that we’re an island of sanity in an insane world.

But there I go again, arrogating to this place an exceptionalism that could well be overstated. Were we in a war zone — and there are many now in the world to choose from — I’d undoubtedly be singing a different tune, dirge rather.

Hobbes said life in the raw was solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short, a description that even today may be true in many places, though I, an optimist by nature (against all odds), cannot help but demur.

It’s all how you look at it, and from what vantage point. Our vantage point here is rather serene, most of the year, and I sense a feeling of community (that the Condé Nast poll-takers apparently did not) that is sustaining and abiding. What more can you hope for in life than that?

There being no crying need to be brutish here, we can, to some degree at any rate, be friendly, living our lives as we please yet helping one another when there is a need. I’ve seen this happen time and again on the South Fork. If it’s anything America has to teach the world, it may well be this — that life need not be the way Hobbes described, that it can be bountiful, pleasant, endlessly engaging, and long-lived (my dentist said recently that like the Stoics he tried to treat each day as his last, and that he wanted to live forever).

There’s more to power than force and domination. There is, indeed, power in numbers, in numbers of well-meaning people who have worked to free themselves from the tyranny of their emotions, to the extent, at any rate, that they can, having achieved a certain degree of equilibrium, or equanimity, if you will, devote themselves at times to the greater good of a community rather than solely to self-aggrandizing (and often self-destructive) pursuits.

While an antipathy toward tyranny has informed America’s past, as I heard someone say on the radio this morning, by the same token it has a heritage of charity and fairness as well. I would guess in that connection that if a poll were taken, this “city” might be in the forefront when it comes to charitable work. But, again, that is just my surmise (which, of course, is unimpeachable).

Looking at the bigger picture, taking in life’s beauty and joys as well as its ghastly enormities (natural and man-made) ought, I think, to persuade us that there is more to be gained from amity than from hate. Granted, it’s easier to think that way when you’re not coming under fire, but, in the end, if humankind is to survive, if not thrive, it must free itself from the chains of pride it has forged.