Michael Gottlieb / Letters to a Middle-Aged Poet / 27


Is there anything that can armor us or at least, in some way, serve us well, or, at least, not turn on us – in the way that so many of things that we pinned our hopes on ended up disappointing us, to put it mildly – as we hove forward into this future for which we feel so utterly unprepared? Laughter.

There does seem to be one quality, one dimension when it comes to the ways we contracted with each other, at least some of us did, and similarly engaged with the world, which, at the time, seemed like a luxury or perhaps an acquired taste or, possibly, a quality – let’s call it that – which one might or might not possess in a notable way or not, but which now seems utterly necessary. It appears now as a requirement, an obvious requisite, an iron-framed absolute without which it well neigh seems inconceivable to frankly carry on without: we must maintain a sense of humor.

If we cannot laugh, at each other, at all of those who have come after us (those who came before us have doubtless weathered enough already of our scorn and jibe), at you, and, especially if we cannot laugh at ourselves, at us, and at the fix we’ve found ourselves in, at the pretty pass we’ve pitched up at, this lovely forenoon, then really and truly, we are in trouble. Well, we know we’re in trouble already, but sans that saving grace we are really and truly sunk… And, more to the point, those among us – those of our rank (such as it is) and seniority (to frame it, albeit it with air quotes around that term) who don’t, or can’t summon up, or feel it beneath them, or – indeed – are suffering so, so much that they can’t find it within themselves (and we dare not disrespect that particular condition) to laugh at themselves, they are, it is to be feared, doubtlessly lost. Or, if they are not already sunk in perdition, surely they are at terrible risk.

We must keep laughing, if for no other reason than to save ourselves, at least for the time being.

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