Tom Nichols is a professor in Rhode Island. He wrote this post for The New York Times. NOTEBOOK Never-Trump Confidential By TOM NICHOLS 6:00 AM My brother heard I’d been saying bad things about Don…
Time is a very strange thing, contrary to scientific thinking it does not pass in the same regular fashion. In the early hours of the morning the minutes pass so slowly they seem like hours, time almost seems to stop. Yet round about breakfast time, say eight o’clock, the hours speed up and suddenly its noon and half my morning jobs; stacking the dish-washer, making the bed, throwing the laundry into the machine are still not more than half done. If I sit for a moment with a cup of coffee I think of the years that have raced away and suddenly I’m a Pensioner, how did it happen?
Now you and I know pensioners are frail, decrepit people, who can’t take a selfie, don’t understand that emails and texts are absolutely the first thing you must look at every morning and keep on looking at every few minutes in case something should happen to someone in your class. Pensioners don’t understand the internet, for goodness sake they still post letters with a stamp on. They can’t stand up straight, their knees are wobbly, their hips have to be replaced by bits of metal and they have horrible dried wrinkly skin. Some of this is very close to home but I’m not going to tell you which. On the other hand I can still walk and talk, not exactly ‘a living doll’, no someone who is shocked at the mess we are making for our children and grandchildren. We didn’t understand that personal satisfaction is not the whole of life and society does actually form an important part of all our lives. The changes in everyday life arrive with astonishing speed, many adding to our enjoyment but uncontrollable greed democracies have still not learned to deal with.
I feel honoured, I watched and listened to a brilliant life-enhancing lecture by Professor David Eagleman on the brain. I didn’t have to travel by road or rail or aeroplane, I simply switched on the television set in my living room. Would it have been exciting to be in the same room as the young and energetic Professor, you’d better believe it. But to see him at a distance, hear his clear explanations and follow the lecture was thrilling. I speak as a non-scientist, he lead me very gently to a better understanding of how the brain works independently of our conscious thinking.
Isn’t it wonderful I don’t have to go to Oxford, Yale, Harvard or Houston, I can invite the greatest minds into my living room, I don’t even have to worry if the place is neat and tidy. I think the programmes were made for Public Service Broadcasting in the USA and then shown on the BBC in Britain. Eagleman explained how much we all need each other, we are above everything social animals. I was cheered up, the news is so full of the dreadful things we continue to do to each other but it really doesn’t have to be this way.
This morning I listened to the Book of the Week, Margo Jefferson’s ” Negroland”. This book is written from two different view-points, the view of the child Margo as she lived it and the adult view of the woman who can put her understanding of a wider society and is able to step back from her own experiences and explain her parents behaviour to her younger self. This book is elegantly written and had a powerful impact on me. There are significant differences as well as considerable points of similarity in our stories.
Margo grew up in Chicago in the 1950s, I grew up in Sunderland also in the 1950s. Margo grew up in a middle class prosperous household, I grew up in a poor working class home. We both had parents who wanted the best for us. Margo is black and I am white. We had no television set as a child, we listened to the radio. I was an early member of the library and my greatest pleasure was reading books and listening to the radio. I lived in a modern house with a bathroom, it was equipped with hot water and electricity, I shared a bedroom with my younger sister. Every school day I caught a bus to take me into town, then in town I got on a second bus to take me to the school. I had a free pass so my journey didn’t cost me anything. I had a school dinner which was the part of the day I liked least. It was a state school so my parents had nothing to pay. I liked most of the lessons, two I didn’t like were mathematics and sewing
At the time I didn’t realise that in fact I was a very lucky girl, many girls in other parts of the world do not get the chance to go to school and some are married off while they are still children.