Because most of my money is not coursing through the stock market, I can watch the undulations there from a safe and curious distance. Late last week, as you may have heard, the market went through some particularly spectacular convulsions, which prompted an email from the broker over-seeing my children’s college fund assuring that all is well-ish. I’m sure it is-ish. As always. I sometimes imagine myself as a nation of one, with an economy, a consumer confidence index, even a defense department, lax as it often is. As Lifetime President Elect, it is my duty to calm the citizenry, as well as negotiate with other foreign nations, who are rarely hostile but periodically irritating. The citizens of this proud nation are always most productive when calm. To this end, I advise them to keep their eyes on their own paper.
Or I should say, we keep our eyes off most papers. Yes, I read them, in a cursory way, and mostly so I know what my friends are chattering about on various email threads, but if I tie even one ounce of my well being to a story on the front page of the New York Times my heart palpations would look like the jagged storyline of the stock market.
Imagine if someone were to allow their peace of mind to rise and fall with the struggles of our characters? It would be silly, and not just because the stories are fiction. The stories are intended to be tumultuous, are in fact written specifically because of the conflict and discord they describe. What makes us think life should be any different?
The headlines in newspapers are to me like the chapter headings in a very, very long story. One of the gifts of writing stories is finding ways to see the fire and rattle of events through to their necessary end. If you must read the papers, I advise you do so with your fiction writer’s eye. The vast arc of history is no different than our own small stories. As I am nation of one, the world and all its population is like a single body, talking constantly to itself about how it can live happily, and no matter how startling the headlines, nothing can ever be truly wrong with that.