Friday, April 08, 2011

Friday introspection

In other words, not a lot of laughs here. At least, not intentional ones....

We generally fall asleep in front of the TV in the Curmudgeon home. I usually nod off first, sometimes despite Long Suffering Spouse's loud efforts to keep me awake. My wife is generally correcting student papers when she drops off. As near as I can tell, though, she has never made a long red line down the face of a page as consciousness fled. This is surely a gift.

Tuesday was a typical evening in our home, then, at least in that sense, as we both fell asleep waiting for the news to come on. I wanted to catch news of the election results. I did not.

When I awoke, around midnight, I fired up the computer to see what I had missed. I went right to the Chicago Board of Elections site so I could get the vote totals in the ward races that interested me -- including, of course, the race in the ward where I live.

The news disappointed. It's not that I dislike the candidate who won; it's just that I consider the candidate who lost to be a friend. So does Long Suffering Spouse. "I was almost tempted to vote for her opponent," she told me Wednesday, "because no one I vote for ever wins."

Still, I was all riled up about the election. All elections rile me up; I have an interest in elections and politics that borders, according to my friend Steve, on the unhealthy. Someday, he says at every opportunity, science will prove that all politicians are mentally ill -- the very thirst for office being the most telling symptom. Steve frequently cites Rod Blagojevich as Exhibit A for his theory.

I used to remind Steve that I have run for public office and would, therefore, according to his definition, be mentally ill. "Yours seems to be a mild case," he told me. I believe he was trying to be reassuring. I try to change the subject now whenever he brings it up.

So -- as I say -- I get riled up on every election day. I can feel the sap rising, as Adlai Stevenson III once said (to his eternal chagrin). But I must have been particularly riled up on Tuesday night because, having woken up enough to check the election results, I found it difficult to fall back asleep.

It's probably because I'm currently reading Martin Gilbert's biography of Winston Churchill (the one volume condensed version, not the full eight volume work).

Churchill was a man who was apparently fearless, and I do not refer just to his youthful military exploits. He seemed utterly unafraid to say, and write, what he pleased, knowing all the time that he would be, and was, making enemies in the process. He was unafraid to work with those whom he had alienated, converting some, in time, from enemies to admirers. Maybe the subject is covered in more depth in Gilbert's unabridged biography, but Churchill's recurring depression (his 'black dog') is merely hinted at. I suppose it may be because, when Churchill wasn't depressed, when his eyes burned with intensity and purpose, he churned out such a staggering pile of papers, memoranda, letters, articles, even books. Gilbert, and other Churchill biographers too, suggest that Churchill was so afraid of dying young (as his father had) that he lived his life on overdrive. By the time he realized he would (and had) long outlived his father, the habit was formed.

I, on the other hand, am a profile in timidity. If I've made few enemies, I also have few friends -- and no admirers. I can churn out sentences as pompous and grandiose as anything Churchill ever wrote... but mine sound pretentious, even to me. I think this comes from my unwillingness to come out, in the open, and take the risks that anyone takes in public life: The risks of defeat, humiliation, even ridicule. Steve would say that my attitude demonstrates reasonable mental health; Churchill's, on the other hand, shows that depression was not the only mental illness with which he coped. And, of course, at the end of the day, Churchill was the descendant of John Churchill, first Duke of Marlborough, the grandson of the 7th Duke, nephew of the 8th, cousin of the 9th... and related by blood or marriage to most of the rest of the English peerage. His mother was a 'confidante' of the future King Edward VII. (Churchill, I've learned, received a walking stick from King Edward as a wedding present. Churchill used this for the rest of his life -- even if Edward and his successors occasionally wished that Edward had knocked him over the head with the stick instead of making it a present.) Churchill's place in society was assured regardless of his successes or failures in politics. I, on the other hand, am merely one of 50,000 Cook County lawyers, as proud of my heritage as Churchill was of his -- but altogether conscious that my bloodlines confer upon me no social standing whatsoever.

In the end, I'll finish Gilbert's biography and move on to the next book. Perhaps then the urge to do something will pass or the regret subside.


Dave said...

"...[A]nd no admirers." Wrong on that one. I stopped at that and will go back to the post and see if I have anything else to say.

Dave said...

We are what we are. I'm thinking that you are a more "interior" person than is necessary to be what it is that you think you want to be. And it is probably too late to change that. I don't think that is necessarily a bad thing.

I'm thinking and hoping that I just gave you a compliment.

Lawfrog said...

First of all, I think all lawyers are mentally ill in some way. Why else would we ever go into this profession?:)

Seriously speaking though, I think you have more admirers than you realize. I find your blog to be interesting and funny, and I'm glad you take the time out of your life to write it.

I'm sorry the election results were a disappointment. Politics is a funny thing and not in the humorous way (well, not often. See Dan Quayle quotes if you're looking for the humorous funny in politics). :)

Empress Bee (of the High Sea) said...

i think steve is on to something!

smiles, bee

Jean-Luc Picard said...

The stick story is fascinating