Today, September 5, 2015, Vice-President Biden wants to be President, but doesn’t. Roger Meddows-Taylor is happy and proud in his rock-star role, but hates it. I sense today that in all corners of the world, among the great and the obscure, are people who could succeed, even are succeeding, wildly, and wonder if it’s the right thing to be doing, because it means they are doing so in the absence of someone they loved.
I am not a big fan of Kate Chopin. You know me, American Lit junkie, feminist, and short-story fan, and also someone who holds particular literary peeves born, I suspect, from anthologies (c.f. my earlier commentary on Jack London). The Story of an Hour is, naturally enough, a very painful text for me. A widow, shocked, appalled at herself, sits and begins to contemplate the world without Him — and it becomes increasingly obvious that it’s going to be a garden of earthly freedom. Lucy Maud Montgomery’s The Blue Castle promotes the simple romantic notion that it is the escape from the people you’ve lived with and “loved” in a conventional, social manner of speaking, that will guarantee your happiness and opportunity, even bless your gifts to the rest of the world. Leave your nets and come with Me.
Let’s say that’s true. A person with whom we were entangled, in good ways or ill, through family obligation or genuine love, is dead. And then we get a marvelous opportunity to do something good in the world. Not just successful, but actually GOOD. I don’t know. Care for someone sick or lonely. Start a foundation for the relief of AIDS. Lead the free world. Crap. Is it GOOD that he died?
If Roger had gotten to keep his friend, there would be beautiful music, but there would be no Mercury Phoenix Trust. If Joe Biden had gotten to keep Beau…If I still had Dan, would I have taken in the homeless kid? Is it GOOD that he’s gone? If my career takes off (not bloody likely, but just pretend) if I return to the Church, if I help a dozen college students who might not have otherwise graduated because I’ve got nothing better to spend my emotional energy on, is that Good?
I love September 5th, and I hate it. In 1997 I left Newark Airport on September 5th and arrived in Heathrow seven hours later plus GMT time and was held up for half an hour while Heathrow shut down for Diana’s final arrival, a moment of silence; never seen London so still before or since. Then Elton John writes that damn song and people pour out love and affection and there are teddy bears tucked into the arms of Peter Pan’s statue in Kensington Gardens.
Mr. Biden, I would love for you to be President. But I fully understand if you couldn’t bear to succeed at it.