Friend, I am concerned about your mental health. The malady of the times—the one that begins with a tingling in the prefrontal cortex—may finally have gotten its grips on you. Stick out your tongue. Do the letters to the editor in your local paper, or the comments following an online news story, fill you with violent impulses that, even though you would never act on them, make you wonder if you shouldn’t give yoga a try? Do you find yourself complaining that there is never time to do the simplest things—to retie the shoe that has become uncomfortably looser than its mate, to straighten the bent spokes that give your umbrella its osteoporotic look, to get beyond the first chapter of the books that accumulate by your bedside, reminding you of your loved ones’ mistaken belief that you are a voracious reader? Do you sometimes behave or talk, or emit thought bubbles, like a character in a particularly unfunny comic strip, such as “Arlo and Janis” or “Get Fuzzy”? Do you ever have the sensation that weasels have taken up residence in your lower intestine and are plotting to launch into a chorus of “Winchester Cathedral” at an embarrasing moment? Of course you don’t. You’re not that far gone. But I think you know what I mean.
Unless I am mistaken, you are preoccupied with the ends of things. It is the end of history, of mystery, of manners. The end of good television shows with guest stars who walk onto the set and pause, trying not to smile, while the audience claps in recognition. The end of luxury or even comfort in any activity associated with commercial travel. It is the end of the line for customer service, and penmanship is not far behind, you fear. These symptoms are not uncommon.
It is normal, if you suffer from this affliction, to believe that all you hold dear is on a collision course with something else. Wall Street with Main Street, sanity with vanity, humans with Hummers, Democrats with autocrats, Republicans with pelicans. The rising moon, impossibly huge on the horizon, excites in you a momentary panic that it is following at an unsafe distance. You fret that your modest lifestyle will not survive an impact with—fill in the blank (the current Congress, the greening of everything in sight, the downsizing of Sam’s Club, the new sassy look in women’s hair). That is how far your condition has progressed.
And you know what the problem is, of course. A lack of whimsy in your diet. That is correct. You are deficient in the one element that can eliminate the free radicals of precarious living. There is, I am happy to say, plenty of whimsy in this issue of Tufts Magazine. One article (and maybe more than one) exists for no other reason than to amuse you. It is yours to discover.