August 28, 1997
Essayist Roger Rosenblatt explores the beauty of the predictable.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Finally tonight, Roger Rosenblatt considers some of his favorite things.
ROGER ROSENBLATT: This is the most predictable time of year, let us enjoy it. From the last weeks of August through the first weeks of September everything that happens has happened before and will happen again. Excellent. So long, Mr. President, have a great vacation. Every President takes off this time of year. Mr. Clinton's Martha's Vineyard was Ronald Reagan's Rancho Del Sielo. Now, Reagan was a man who really knew how to take a vacation, but so was Dwight Eisenhower, who took a 26-day holiday in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1957, and Harry Truman, who spent his leisure time deep sea fishing off Key West. Calvin Coolidge used to take vacations as often as possible. How could they tell? In 1969, Richard Nixon took 31 days off at San Clemente, a modern day record. A turbulent year, 1969. But even the leader of the free world deserves a break.
As James Thurber said, "Tis better to have loafed and lost than never to have loafed at all." In any case, it's all predictable, as is the sight of kids going back to school. That's almost as predictable as the mild, little jokes about how glad parents will be to see the kids going back to school. Larger kids will head for college, some of them the last in their families to do so, thus, emptying the nest. Families will take the customary last fling at having a good time, swimming the last swim, grilling and burning the last of the summer's hotdogs, commenting endlessly on the last of the summer peaches, the summer lettuce, the summer corn. People will dream the last of the summer dreams.
Forget not to enjoy that inner last fling too. This is the season for dreaming about monumental changes of life and lost or delayed opportunities. What happened to that novel you always had in you? Of course, it's not too late to get it out. Didn't you always intend to become an opera singer? Get out there on the beach and stretch those vocal chords. Your time has come. Wasn't that always the real you, the poet, the architect, ballerina, chef?
By mid-September, those might have been reveries will have been swallowed by all but normal "what ises." But for now, seize the daydream. Let all that may be taken for granted be taken for granted. The world is too full of surprises anyway. That's all we ever see--surprises. We expect them. We roll with the sucker punches. Shocking news--a respected sports announcer is accused of living on life's seamier side. Savage and sadistic cops brutalize a man in a station house bathroom. So few surprises are nice ones that the predictable moments become suddenly special.
Coleridge said that about the difference between surprise and anticipation. If we were to look at a point of land over which the sun were supposed to rise and the moon rose instead, we'd be disappointed, let down. But give us the sun when it's scheduled to appear, and that's good news, which reminds me, yesterday over the borough of Manhattan in the City of New York, in the United States, on the Northern American continent, a slight variation in the darkened sky occurred at approximately 6:15 AM. Within 15 minutes the sky, which had served as an obscuring bed cover over the city, was seemingly cast off by a giant hand. And its place was a lighter sky. By 6:30, the atmosphere had been thoroughly altered from dark to light because of this one extraordinary rising force. Witnesses said that the event was predictable. But you should have been there. I'm Roger Rosenblatt.