Smile at What Is Possible

 

Time flies when you’re having fun… And even, as it turns out, when you aren’t. My last post on this blog is dated in May of 2019, and it seems both like yesterday and a century ago.

Be that as it may, I am compelled to put my thoughts in order tonight, and my long-neglected blog seems an appropriate place to do it.

A line from a lesser-known Ayn Rand novel has been haunting me over the last few weeks, as the remnants of hope for a last-minute miracle had evaporated and the stages-of-grief about our current situation have begun to run their course.

We the Living, Rand semi-autobiographical tale of life in Soviet Russia in the early years of the glorious revolutionary regime, is not quite an “Ayn Rand book.” It’s philosophy is more reflective of Rand’s early flirtations with Nietzsche than Objectivism, and its tone and content are unrelentingly, overwhelmingly bleak, in sharp contrast to the aggressive optimism of her iconic later works.

It is the only one of Rand’s novels I don’t own, and the only one I never had any desire to re-read. And yet, here it is, decades later, demanding attention with that one heartbreaking line:

She smiled, her last smile, to so much that had been possible. 

This concept, this vision of realizing the full promise and potential of life just as it comes to an end, is, of course, not original to Rand. However, this particular turn of phrase speaks to me today, not on a personal level–my life has been blessed in more ways that I can count–but as an American.

Over the last four years, on many levels and in the manner we never could have dreamed of, we have been shown what was possible. I will not go through the list of all that has been accomplished–there are plenty of articles on the matter, and that’s not really the point. Many of the achievements will turn out to be fleeting, to be reversed in mere hours and days of the new regime; some will persist in their effects; and a few might even go on, with the credit accruing to those who have done nothing to deserve it.

But the possibility of something previously unimaginable, once seen, cannot be unseen. The lie uncovered might be declared truth again, but it will never be truth to those who have witnessed the revelation. Those who have tasted clean water might be forced to go back to drinking sewage, but they will never mistake one for the other.

Unlike the doomed character in the intentionally tragic story, we seen the possible–and are still alive. 

We’re still Americans, we’re still proud of our country, and in the few short years we have caught a glimpse what it could be, and what it can yet become. It’s OK to be angry and even depressed at the current turn of events. Take the time to work through all the feelings of frustration and disappointment, but know that you need, you must come out on the other side, stronger and more inspired than ever,

We will smile at what is still possible–and will get back to work at making it happen.

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