The settings--the Soviet Union and Belarus, Romania under Ceausescu, and South Africa--will depress me through the 1,300 and more pages. But, the human condition explored in those will, I am sure, help me understand not only my own existence but even the ongoing crises around the worldAs depressing as those were, they provided me with hope as well--the horrible regimes can try their best but they cannot really wipe out the human desire for life. By life I don't merely refer to survival. But to poetry. To music. To good food. To spending time with friends and family.
Reading such works of literature help me/us understand, with empathy, that there is hope for a better future. As the former President, Obama, described it, they give me a renewed appreciation for the complexities and ambiguities of the human condition.
I have been thinking a lot about those books, and more, these past few days and weeks. Especially over the past week when Obama became a "former president." Every day, the decisions made at the White House seem to be darkening the landscape even more than did the actions of the day before. A gag order on climate researchers. A ban in immigration and refugees from certain countries that have Islamic population. An all out assault on the media. A threat to even impose martial law in Chicago.
Daily life now seems less joyful than before. Cooking and cleaning now feel like real chores. The ducks and the geese are less charming. The river does not capture my attention.
But, thanks to all those wonderful books and essays that I have read over the years, I understand and appreciate that life is what it is. Life is not what it could be. Though, the "could be" is the hope that shows us the path to a better tomorow. It is perhaps with such an acceptance of the life that unfolds, even as they hoped for a better life that could be, that the millions in the Soviet Union, and Romania, and South Africa, and elsewhere, plodded along with determination. And they wrote, and sang, and danced, and smoked, and drank till they were merry.
I stopped for a few minutes off the highway to look at the gorgeous sunset on a chilly evening. To admire it. To be thankful for it. Cars and trucks roared by, while I stood there watching the sun set over the hills in the distance. The sun does not care for any maniacal tyrant. Maybe neither should I; if only it were that easy!