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Point of View: In Praise of Temperance

Wed, 02/01/2023 - 18:18

“Nothing too much,” I said the other day as I flung my racket into the next court, taking care, mindful of the golden mean, not to overreach by throwing it two courts over.

I’ve been thinking of passing this piece of Aristotelian wisdom on to our 14-year-old granddaughter, but she already knows instinctively what the golden mean means, whereas I have to remind myself from time to time.

Alternating between insouciance and hysteria, I am not fit to be her mentor, nor, as I’ve learned lately, should I even be within range when she plays volleyball, basketball, softball, or tennis, or should I say “tense,” for that’s what I am when she’s competing — and when I’m competing — a bundle of nerves, wincing, crying out, barely able to contain myself, a mirror image of her calm demeanor.

I imagine she already knows that it’s happiness, i.e., to be fully engaged, that’s to be pursued. I think she will always keep her head when all about her people are throwing their rackets and blaming it on her.

Isn’t it nice that in this country we can think in this way, to wit, that life here for many, young, or old for that matter, offers possibility. We’re free to follow our own paths. Some, in doing so, are steadfast. Some stumble, but learn from their mistakes. Some stumble and don’t learn, but they have been free to choose. In Russia, apparently, it’s different. Putin in November reportedly told mothers grieving for their young conscript sons who had been killed in Ukraine that they ought to be consoled by the fact that they had died for the state — and thus had really lived — rather than linger on and drink themselves to death. Dare to tell the truth about his “special military operation” and you get 15 years in prison.

Russia under the tyrant telling the sons of the army to fall heroically for him (see, irony of ironies, The Internationale’s lyrics) sounds like a dreary place. Glasnost’s long gone.

May those then coming of age in this far freer, far more optimistic country be temperate and value friendship, may they think for themselves and act with purpose, may they never bow down to tyrants, and may they in the face of myriad distractions be ever mindful, as I think our granddaughter is, of the golden mean.

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