July 5th, 2020


Life is so interesting, it's hard to stop

Garrison Keillor

By Garrison Keillor

Published July 12, 2019

It's a privilege to have a doctor of medicine in the family and my family has two, one American, one Swedish.

We dreamers and ideologues need to come into contact with science now and then. The Swedish doctor told us yesterday she is skeptical of the American practice of routine colonoscopies, that the profit margin on the procedure is very high and the rationale is modest at best. I'd never heard skepticism about colonoscopies before; it was like someone bad-mouthing mouthwash.

I've been pro-colonoscopy because it feels good to get cleaned out and the muscle relaxant is so luxurious and pleasurable, and health insurance paid the freight so I didn't give it a thought. Interesting.

The American one is retired and so available for consultation at all hours. I got him on the phone the other evening and ticked off my pulse and he told me not to worry, it was regular. I thought it was but I'm an English major; it's good to get a second opinion from someone who passed biology.

I am blessed with faith in medicine, which saves a great deal of time looking into alternatives such as naturopathy, homeopathy, antipathy, and sympathy. If a man with horn-rimmed glasses, a stethoscope around his neck, a white smock, and a framed certificate on the wall handed me two red M&M's, I would feel much better very soon after. I walk into a clinic and the smell of the antiseptic floor cleaner is reassuring to me.

This faith saves a person from morbidity in old age.

Back in my college years, I wrote dismal incoherent poems about death, and then I grew up, I read Tolstoy, I sat in a car with my arm around a girl who didn't seem to mind, visited New York City, found a good job, got some experience in the world, and morbidity faded away. I'm 76 and I own a cemetery plot and I think about death less than I think about the Gadsden Purchase.

It is grievous though to read the recent report about what our country may look like in another fifty years. Vast empty office parks, tribes of lawless drifters, mountains of wrecked cars. The prophet Jeremiah was a dark guy, nobody you'd invite to a party, who wrote: "Hear, O earth! Behold, I will certainly bring calamity on this people — I will punish you according to the fruit of your doings. I will kindle a fire in the forest, and it shall devour all things around it." Bad enough but when scientists issue a jeremiad, it commands us to pay attention.

No wonder so many millennials are in a fury. You graduate with a truckload of debt for a liberal arts education designed not to upset you and the only job you can find is waiting on tables, which is hard because you attended a progressive school where rote learning was forbidden and so you're unable to add numbers except using your iPhone and meanwhile there are newspaper stories about human extinction and an angry narcissist is running the government. What to do?

Do as I do. Take it one day at a time. Lighten up. Count your blessings: GPS, YouTube, Google, a vast assortment of craft beers and salad bars in supermarkets. Figure out who your true friends are. Hold off on long-term planning until November, 2020, when we'll have a clearer idea of the future.

In the meantime, dance when you get the chance.

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Garrison Keillor is an author and radio personality.