Point of View: Insanity in Fashion

Mark Twain apparently said sanity and happiness were incompatible, or words to that effect

My father used to say all I did was watch balls go back and forth, and so it has been — volleyballs, basketballs, soccer balls, tennis balls, baseballs, rugby balls, footballs . . . though, come to think of it, not so many footballs anymore, and, for the first time that I can remember, no rugby balls have been going back and forth at Herrick Park this fall.

So, I suppose if you were to ask me what changes I’d seen here over the years, I would say, “I’m seeing fewer balls go back and forth.”

But, as I said to Susan at Robbie’s the other day, what buoys me really, what keeps me going, is the prospect every day of going to watch children play. How can you not be enlivened by that, how can you not continue to be rendered optimistic, despite an Everest of evidence to the contrary. 

Mark Twain apparently said sanity and happiness were incompatible, or words to that effect — at least “sanity” was given as the correct crossword answer the next day. Mary demurred when I mentioned it, knowing me to be happy, and reluctant, I guess, to think of me as insane. Inane, perhaps, but not insane — a trait that she often ascribes to our leaders when they talk of winning nuclear exchanges or of weaponizing space.  

I remember when my late stepmother, who was French, first heard of “Star Wars.” Ah, she said, America would be protected now. But I wondered. There is, after all, a lot of space in space. . . . 

We can’t even control guns in a reasonable way, how can we even think of controlling nukes, you might ask. Certainly the present administration doesn’t seem much interested. In fact it’s tilting the other way. And so, unhappily, the insanity remains in fashion.

“And now the same dreamy, heavy-lidded ivory tower scientists at work on their marvelously accurate missiles are also at work on nuclear defense,” Lewis Thomas said in one of his “Fragile Species” essays. About a quarter-century ago. 

“We need a freeze, all right, a mutual freeze on this kind of [so-called] science. . . . Its only possible outcome will be the destruction of nature itself.”

Not a happy prospect, you’ll agree. Sanity still offers the only alternative outcome, and, yes, undoubtedly a happy one — pace Mark Twain — should it ever be achieved.