From Dr. Tim Seelig–
Since 1978, the words “that’s 20/20” have been repeated weekly by a variety of trusted household names: Hugh Downs, Barbara Walters, Diane Sawyer, Charles Gibson, Sam Donaldson, Connie Chung, John Stossel, Elizabeth Vargas, and Chris Cuomo. That’s quite a list. They are the newscasters that people completely trust when covering global events.
That is certainly television of the past. It appeared in one of the three major networks. What? Three? Not on Netflix? Forget it! Many have. But many of us don’t have it. Not only are the three big networks struggling to face too many options, but there has been a war on the news in general. Once upon a time in a country far away, we believed what a newscaster said. They actually said the exact same thing on all three channels. That confirmed that it was the truth. We trusted Hugh and Barbara and the others. If you don’t like what you’re hearing, you can switch channels and hear the exact opposite “news” from the anchors. Messages are definitely not messages anymore.
Before the New Year at the beginning of 2019, I wrote an article for the San Francisco Bay Times. Oh my. And I quote:
We have now turned the page in 2018. For many it was a great relief and couldn’t come soon enough. I am in this camp. For some, the page of the year was happy and closed a chapter on an outstanding year. Some hesitantly turned the page in fear of the unknown. Regardless, we cannot control time. We don’t have the option: “No, thanks, I’ll just stay a little longer in 2018.” 2019 is here!
Father Time continued his steady march last year. He is not a beautiful vision with his long beard, wrinkled robe and an hourglass that represents the constant one-way street of time. It’s a bit scary when he snaps up his scythe to kill the last year! In his final act, he hands the new year over to a jumping baby who has no idea what to do with the year ahead.
Close the front door! What? Father Time has the scythe to kill a year? Any nominations from the ground in what year to sacrifice the old guy? I’m listening to 2020. Are there any other nominations? Grilling. If you don’t hear everyone in favor of taking the steps to the gallows in 2020, say “yes”. Without hearing any objection, the movement passes. Bye, Felicia, 2020!
Ah, it was that simple … let’s be honest. Looking back is 20/20 and the view from the rearview mirror is just bad.
We can no longer turn away from tragic circumstances in our usual way: concerts, shows, cinema, ballet, social meeting places. And we have zoom fatigue. What should I do?
Here’s an idea: grab a book !! Take refuge in the printed word. Lose yourself in its pages. Let us take you on a journey – inside or outside. What is your favorite book? Action and adventure? Or maybe classics, fantasy, historical fiction, horror or comics? Oh, so many options.
What if 2020 was actually a book? It would be a very long book. What genre would you put it in? OK, not everyone can choose horror. Countless books are already being written about 2020. Avoid them like the plague! Ouch, that’s a sentence that is no longer appropriate! Too early.
If life is really just a book, thank you Jesus for starting 2021, The Book. It was a real page turner / barn burner.
Back to “2020, The Book”, what a book it was! It will never be compared to the good book. Apart from the special treats, God apparently had a sleeve up his sleeve for the climax of His creation – we! You know, water turned to blood (where was the water to wine?), Frogs, lice, mosquitoes and grasshoppers (sounds like the boy scout summer camp I didn’t want to attend), boils (gross) and plague. Yup. There it is! “A deadly epidemic.” Do I think God sent COVID because gays keep doing bad things like getting married? Oh no. We may have been bad (voted Donald Trump) but not that bad. Definitely.
Back to the books. If we could read the synopsis on the back, we would never have bought the book. But that’s not how it works. In fact, we must not just read the book but live it before the summary can be written. It used to be so much fun reading books with spines and paper. Reading older books smelled comforting. And a different smell than brand new books.
Now it’s mostly just a swipe or a tap. It’s just not the same. I’ve turned to reading on a screen rather than a natural resource book. I swear fonts in books are getting smaller – probably to save paper. No matter how hard I squeezed and spread two fingers to enlarge my paper books, the font never got any bigger! The printing industry forced me to switch because of the cost reduction.
Have you ever paused a couple of chapters – or maybe 1/3 – and instead of turning the page, just turned them in at the half price bookstore to see if it was someone else’s cup of tea? Or earlier to the fire starter, to undress a bird cage or to train a puppy? Well, this last chapter would have been better off with any of these three.
There were many chapters. There were some big subsections. I can think of three: Trump, COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter. There were many, many chapters under each subheading. Books in and of themselves.
Of course we all love magazines. Empty books in which to write our own story or stories. Unfortunately, most of our magazines couldn’t bypass the three chapters above.
You know those trick candles that don’t blow out when you blow them? The chapter titled “Donald” is like this.
In November we thought we had finished this chapter. We put the book aside in November. Surprise. Lo and behold, it opens up like a charm on In love with a witch.
Some of us actually threw the book away and like a scene from it, the book with a creepy clown face (Donalds) rose out of the garbage or the gutter and chased us down and shouted, “You’re not done with me yet! I’ll show you and your little dog too! “
I’ve always lived the ups and downs of life with a sense of humor, most of the time I put things in perspective and developed further. And I’ve always had live music to create with choirs everywhere – in addition to my “family” SFGMC. Singing is healing. Singing with others is a legend. It breaks through all barriers and allows one to immerse oneself completely in the beautiful flow of sound and add one’s part to the whole. That’s gone for now. It’s one of the hardest things about this pandemic.
Why couldn’t we have locusts?
Here we are, 2021. Anyone or almost everyone is more than ready to write a new book and get the old one to bed using one of the methods outlined above – kindling, birdcage, puppy block.
Here is my new year wish. I hope we can get rid of the pain. I hope we can find forgiveness in our hearts. And I hope we’ll be singing together well before we start writing 2022, The Book.
Find a book you love Write one yourself. Find a song that you love Sing along. Find someone you love and randomly zoom them in to tell them!
PS In 2018, I quoted a lyrics from Bay Area Troubadour, Bobby Jo Valentine. Two years later, it’s even more poignant. Here is a short extract:
Something you happened to
December 31st, pull up the shiny hearse
put it in the old year, put it in reverse
The past pulls your driveway out of reach forever
The future is a highway
grow under our feet
So, let the new year grow, take it safely and slowly
Never look back except to learn or to laugh
Wounds are our greatest teachers, scars are our strangest strength
hold up your injured hand, wave goodbye
Dawn doesn’t come until after the old day has passed
Time moves us further and further into the mystery
and every moment changes based on the way we move
Life isn’t just what happens … it’s something that happens to you
Dr. Tim Seelig is the Artistic Director of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus.
Published on December 17, 2020