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Posted By DMB

I continue my private study of the books in the backdrops of the homes of our public commentators as they inform us on TV. Second in interest, but no less telling is the art they choose to hang on their walls. But I’ll leave that for others to comment on.

The books are as expected, almost always rows of tilted paperbacks and not very many of them. So far, I’ve seen two who made a respectable showing – one very impressive, two shelved rooms full denoting the lifelong serious reader. Our Prime Minister – Mr Dressup – has four small shelves and another four adjoining ones gradually filling and pushing the knickknacks along. If he stays in power much longer, he may fill them eventually, meaning he’ll have around 150 to 200 books in the end. Some thousands less than his father would have had but hardly surprising given what we’ve seen. Still, I voted for him too (“give the kid a chance, why not, maybe I’m wrong…”), so I share the blame.

I’ve been studying how our society uses books for many years – which reveals through the clues how we really feel about them. One day I shall publish here or in my column in CNQ some of the results. Just because you and I have spent our lives immersed in books doesn’t mean the rest of them have.


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It’s become obvious by judicious reading and watching how the pandemic is going to go and it’s not good for me and my age group, especially all of us who smoked all those cigarettes for all those years.

We old ones with other health problems can look forward to very limited freedom until a vaccine is found. Almost all group activities will be about five times as deadly for us until then. The rest of the world will learn to take their chances with much smaller odds for death and even smaller ones for a serious bout of the disease.

Gradually the world will adapt, for humans are marvelously adaptable as history teaches. So innumerable tricks and ploys will emerge, and life will go on.

Many things will change permanently and I’m most interested in what will certainly change permanently in our minds. The psychological consequences of this pandemic will affect everything from our mental equilibrium to the sanity of many. Some events will bring horrible effects, hence horrendous consequences, not yet foreseen. Many of our young will learn that death exists and many others will learn how thin the line is, while us old ones may find were not as philosophical as we pretended to be. I would guess our writers are already speculating in their work on some of those consequences and we can expect to see some of them in books and movies in the next while.

Criminals will change their pleas from child abuse to “the virus made me do it.” After our lengthy lockdowns we will better understand when our incarcerated say, “Don’t you get it? It’s being locked up.” We are learning that the real punishment of being locked in is the loss of freedom. And when we’re allowed out again we will learn the equally horrid lessons which come from constantly monitoring all our actions to not make missteps, something all prisoners do every day.

So, life will be harder in lots of things but no less interesting.

Still, people my age, at least thinking ones, know that much that was not long ago taken for granted is finished for us. At the very least until they find and test completely an effective vaccine we can forget about large crowds. Meaning all sports, theatre, and the arts in general where audiences attend.

Thinking on all this there arises for me what is the greatest advantage for the elderly – I don’t want most of what I’ve obviously lost. I can see much of sports and the arts on TV or video and while it’s filtered experience it’s still got some good points. Watching reruns of Toronto’s two World Series at least stimulates memories of what it was like to actually be in the stands. It’s not the same but then neither are most other memories of our youth.

What I think I will miss most is talk. The long leisurely talks with friends in restaurants, over food and wine watching the small dramas of the world around us. The loss of all that hurts a lot to think of. The greater loss for me is book venues and the buying of books. I’ll never run out of books to read but for one such as I, who well knows the true significance of buying books, it is painful to contemplate that.

But aside from that it seems not so bad. My greatest pleasure now, in isolation, aside from reading and cleaning up old messes which long offended me, is thinking. So much so that I no longer refer to my status as isolation, now I call it solitude. Which allows me to call myself a philosopher.

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“You don’t need to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”

                                                                                                                        Ray Bradbury

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