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Keillor writes: "Do as I do. Take it one day at a time. Lighten up."

Garrison Keillor. (photo: MPR)
Garrison Keillor. (photo: MPR)

Life Is So Interesting, It's Hard to Stop

By Garrison Keillor, Garrison Keillor's Website

24 May 19


t’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 the gradual extinction of species and ocean warming and ice cap melting and 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.

But three years ago, a choice was made. The electorate turned away the favorite, a woman who read scientific studies, finding her unlikable. She had serious Methodist virtues but it wasn’t what the middle of the country wanted that year. I saw her clearly once, working a rope line for more than an hour, a Secret Service man holding her firmly by the hips as she leaned over the rope and reached into the mass of arms and hands reaching out to her. She was encountering the crowd and making it look personal, with the sort of discipline your mother instills in you: those people waited three hours to see you so treat them right and make them feel special and forget that your back hurts and you need a toilet. She didn’t do bombast, didn’t do playground insults, and she paid a price for it.

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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+16 # DongiC 2019-05-25 01:02
Garrison, you certainly are special. I am 85 and my favorite motto is "Carpe Diem" (Pluck the day!)
+19 # elizabethblock 2019-05-25 05:37
How did Pete Seeger put it?
"Though nations are warring and business is vexed
I'll still stick around to see what happens next."

[from "Get Up and Go," for which Pete wrote the tune. The rest of the words are traditional.]
+18 # kgrad 2019-05-25 06:25
Garrison! It's always a good thoughtful read ;-) Thank you...
+16 # ddd-rrr 2019-05-25 09:09
"GK", yet again within a single short article, manages to encapsulate
an amazingly wide range of experiences and truths, and to do it
so very economically and beautifully that it is difficult
to believe that he is merely human!
-3 # Texas Aggie 2019-05-25 14:51
Not to be an agua fiesta, but there is only so much of this pablum I can take without up-chucking. Garrison used to be reasonable but there has been a distinct trend over the last few years to navel contemplation and retreat from engagement with the world. At his age he won't have to deal with the consequences of his nonactions, so why should he try to search for solutions or advocate for responses to the problems that threaten the world?
+2 # Billsy 2019-05-26 14:04
I share your reaction. It was particularly brought on by his Disneyesque recollection of the DNC's failed 2016 presidential bid.
+12 # margpark 2019-05-25 17:01
I personally hope colonoscopy as a routine is declared a false thing. Of course as we all know it is not the actual procedure but the day before the procedure And I pay more attention to what is happening around me than the news but the death of the earth is always in the back of my mind as I have 3 adorable great grand children who will have to live through the death of the earth unless we get the damned Republicans voted out.
+1 # BeerMug 2019-05-26 10:40
Always such a pleasure to read or listen to Garrison, but as usual, his political instincts have always been off the mark: It wasn't liberal arts majors upset about student loan debt and no decent job prospects (after 8 years of Obama) who voted for Trump. So he saw Hillary work a crowd at a campaign event once? How about s folksy take on the Clinton Foundation and the influence peddling that took the Clinton's from near pennilous to multi-multi millionaires, as reported in the NYT no less? Garrison is at his best when he steers clear of politics all together. It's just not his strong suit.

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