What is Old is New

Wow. Folks at work were really, really worried today about Wall Street (and the now media-overused “main street”). I’m not happy my 401K tanked. I’m pretty happy I’m in an apartment and not a house I’m about to lose. My heart really goes out to those in trouble. I guess when you don’t have much, you don’t have much to lose. But I know there are those in deep trouble, with children to feed, etc. They are really worried.

I was struck, however, by the number of people talking about the “end of days” as if bad times had never been…no world wars, no great depression, no plagues. One colleague went so far as to say the Mayans had it right–the world will end in 2012. I didn’t get into that conversation.

As I’m currently living part-time in 1890 these days (through my much-cited and agonizingly slow work-in-progress), and Cleopatra’s Needle (an Egyptian obelisk in New York) is a kind of talisman in that book, I was struck anew reading the dedication of that monument in 1881:

“Who indeed can tell what our nation will do if any perversity is possible of realization; and yet this obelisk may ask us, ‘Can you expect to flourish forever? Can you expect wealth to accumulate and man not decay? Can you think that the soft folds of luxury are to wrap themselves closer and closer around this nation and the pith and vigor of its manhood know no decay? Can it creep over you and yet the nation know no decrepitude?’ These are questions that may be answered in the time of the obelisk but not in ours.”

Maybe it is time to get real, get nice, stop the greed, and take care of one another. There’s a lesson in this recession, and I don’t think it’s all about Wall Street.

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