English humor is not Russian
or French or American. Each nation laughs in its own way.
Each grieves in its own way too. Each despairs
in its own way. Each destroys in its own way.
Jan. 1 is, in the United States, the year's
peak day for suicides. Why? Is it just that lonely people feel their
loneliness more keenly at the end of a season of loving groups? That's
surely a part of it. But the land of endless opportunity is also a
land of psychic hazard. Having come so far, the young success
asks as the old year runs out, why have I not gone all the way? All
the way to where? A brilliant sociologist has coined the phrase masochistic
narcissism for this distinctly American form of depression.
Not long ago, a gifted lawyer - Princeton
Phi Beta Kappa, editor of the Yale Law Journal, Fulbright scholar,
dazzingly successful in both private and public life - strangled himself
in a Las Vegas hotel room... but willed some of his frozen sperm to
his girlfriend. His actions, simultaneously ending and seeking to continue
his biological life, were a contradiction in terms, but, alas, a familiar
Like nations dreaming of lost or never-won
empire, too many Americans reject what they are in the name of what
they should be, could be, almost were, or would have been were it not
The culture of infinite possibility can
be, in short, a cruel culture. Those in its grip might well take as
New Year's resolution an English poet's advice: "Let me to mine own
self be a little kind."