Local Commentary

Editorial: On Being Thunderstruck

How was your summer? Viewed from the standpoint of a Falls Church public school year, summer is 12 short weeks between mid-June graduation ceremonies and the day after Labor Day, when the new school year begins. Often it seems Labor Day is a better “eve” for a new year than December 31, because of the school year cycle, and the re-start that every post-summer period represents in every quarter of life.

Did anything “game changing” happen in your life in the summer, or past year? How have things turned out relative to your expectations? In the course of the “long wave” of your life, can you identify progress toward your aspirations? Or, have you given up and, in the words of Pink Floyd, become “comfortably numb?”

(“When I was a child I caught a fleeting glimpse through the corner of my eye. I took a look but it was gone, I cannot put my finger on it now. The child has grown, the dream is gone,” the Pink Floyd lyrics lament, “I have become comfortably numb.”)

“The child is grown, the dream is gone.” Is it really, or has it simply become obfuscated by the mediocrities of day-to-day life?

Often in this “instant gratification” society, it is easy to get frustrated when getting from here to there seems to get bogged down. It helps to step back and gain the benefit of perspective.

Rather than beat one’s self up for not doing enough, it is better to identify a set of practical, doable steps that can keep things, or restart things, heading the right way.

Sometimes it’s helpful to affirm that everything happens for a reason, even if that is more as a methodology than an article of faith. As Oscar Wilde wrote from prison, the notion that everything happens for the best “may be philosophy or a broken heart, or religion, or the dull apathy of despair,” but in the depths of what his life became at that point, he claimed, “The feeling is strong with me.” The conviction enabled him to see beyond his public humiliation and pain to view himself as an inspired artist again.

In terms of those Pink Floyd lyrics, the important thing is to remember the dream. Reinvention comes not from lurching toward something entirely unfamiliar and new, but from an introspection that sees past the accumulated smokescreens and rubble of life to a fresh, core wellspring of vitality and interest.

Tennessee Williams, in the words of an older, jaded character in his play, “Small Craft Warnings,” declared, “Yes, once, quite a long while ago, I was often startled by the sense of being alive, of being myself, living! Present on earth, in the flesh, yes, for some completely mysterious reason, a single, separate, intensely conscious being, myself: living! Whenever I would feel this feeling, this shock of…what?…self-realization?…I would be stunned, I would be thunderstruck by it.”