Thursday, December 22, 2016

Interesting Times

There's a Chinese saying: "May you live in interesting times." 

This appears to be a blessing but, if you ask Chinese people, they will tell you it is, in fact, the most brutal of curses. Interesting times are usually times of tumult, horror, and misery; war, famine, and disease. Times are only interesting, the belief goes, if they are bad. Therefore it's a condemnation of people to wish interesting times upon them.

Conversely there is a Japanese saying: "May you have a boring life." This really is a blessing.

We are, sadly, living in the Chinese version of interesting times. A fascist, racist, misogynistic, demagogic bully who brags about his penis size, assaulting women, terrorizing immigrants, de-humanizing minorities, encourages violence towards others, and has really bad hair and taste in home decor is due to become the 45th President of the United States in 2017. This awful evil man is going to inhabit the same office as Washington, Lincoln, and Roosevelt. That's interesting. It's also scary. It's a curse. Or is it something else?

This ogre was "elected" because he promises to make our country great "again." He promises to restore the past. As I've blogged about before, this is an impossible goal. But here we are.

In NYC, this clash between the past and present is never ending. Gentrification has made the battle lines stark. That's why you should read this article from Salon that is also an interview with the author of a book about nightlife in NYC from 1988 to 1999. Called "No Sleep", it's a coffee table book collection of "nightlife" flyers for downtown clubs and parties, etc. If you lived in NYC back then, you probably remember seeing these flyers all over the place. They were also sent around to places like my high school, trying to lure out young people with too much money. In short, these flyers are relics of an "interesting" time that no longer exists -- namely, downtown NYC when it was still funky. 

It's "interesting" to look at these flyers and and read what the author has to say about the book and take a peak at a world that no longer exists. NYC back then was a rougher place. Many would argue that it was more "interesting." Or not.

What's clear from this book and from the world we're currently living in is that the times are always "interesting." They never stop being interesting. It's hard to think of a time that wasn't. Interesting times never end. But eras do. They are replaced by other eras. And remembering them is a good way to gain perspective on our present and our hopes for the future.