If seeing Notre Dame Cathedral was on your bucket list, you screwed up.
Apparently, parts have been saved, but it will be some time before it’s restored, and then it will be restored, and it will be another century before the restoration feels properly a part of the 850-year-old edifice.
But you let other things come first. And now you’re too late.
The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.
— Omar Khayyam
We’ll get back to this in a minute, but kudos to Andy Marlette for echoing a deeper heartbeat than the truncated movie version, and extra credit for knowing that Hugo named his novel after the cathedral, not its fictional occupant.
So anyway, my friend Dwane Powell died Sunday night, the night before that fire, and here he is with his wife Jan, when we had lunch in October, which is only six months ago. His Facebook page is currently filling with some very nice links.
And before I claim the cancer-survivor’s privilege of reflecting on mortality, let’s revisit some of the Dwane Powell cartoons that have graced these pages:
Powell managed to wield a sharp pen without being unkind about it, but he didn’t suffer fools or liars gladly, and, in this July, 2017, panel, he decried the silence with which the Trump administration turned its back on the murder of journalists.
That cartoon coming before the murder of Khashoggi, who merited his own cartoon just this past October.
Not that he couldn’t see the humor in things, as he demonstrated in November, when Cadet Bonespurs exhibited his utter lack of knowledge of the modern Navy.
Though he did not necessarily find Dear Leader’s prideful, foolish incompetence a harmless source of amusement, as noted that same month.
Nor was his justified rage directed entirely at Trump. When Phyllis Schlafly died in 2016, Dwane resurrected this 40-year-old tribute to her crusade against the Equal Rights Amendment on his Facebook page.
Still, the mobster atmosphere of our current administration distressed him, and political cartooning was thereby the richer, as seen here in February of last year …
… and in this September portrait of those who sell out the nation, enabling an incompetent president for their own benefit …
… while, as seen in December, 2017, his supporters continue to believe that they are somehow benefiting from the debacle.
I’ll miss his gentle fury — this from just last month — in my morning perusal of commentary, and I’ll miss simply knowing that he and I were mutual fans.
We were introduced, in that roundabout way by which people are put together online, by Friend-of-the-Blog Ann Telnaes, for which I am grateful, and I’m also grateful Dwane and Jan have a daughter in Vermont so that we were able to share a lunch in three dimensions.
I wish we could have had more of them, but wotthehell wotthehell.
For now, I simply hope other cartoonists will redouble their efforts to make Ann, and all of us, laugh the way Dwane could.
Phil Ochs was right, and protest takes many beautiful forms. Dwane Powell was a master of his.
“Depend upon it, Sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.” — Samuel Johnson
Note that I speak only for myself, not Dwane, in reflecting on mortality, but I have found, in speaking with others who have been handed the bad news, that there is an unexpected lack of panic.
It’s a case of not bullshitting oneself or one another, starting with an odd recognition that cancer treatment, even if it works completely, only puts things off.
We’re all dying, after all. It’s just that some of us are better at it than others.
I was told “Six months without treatment, 50/50 with,” and, while it certainly did concentrate my mind wonderfully, I was surprised at how little I panicked, and my experience among my fellow patients did nothing to make my response seem unusual.
People in all stages of decay or recovery did what they needed to do and got on with it as if it were no more than a haircut. In my case, a 12-hour haircut. (Tough? Hell, I slept through it.)
When I first had the bad news in hand, I explained to my grandchildren that, while I wanted to be around to see them graduate from high school, I also wanted to be around to see their grandchildren graduate from high school and that seemed pretty unlikely, so we’d just take what we could get.
Besides, I added, I could walk out of the hospital after my final, successful treatment and get hit by a bus.
Which brings us back to the fire at Notre Dame, and this whole business of “bucket lists.”
If cancer isn’t headed your way, that wayward bus or something else is, and if you have a bucket list, empty it.
If there’s something you want to do, do it.
And if there are things on your list that aren’t so important, give them up.
Because, I promise you, when the moment comes, you’ll see that none of it mattered after all, so it’s foolish to waste time, energy and peacefulness in regretting them.
Epictetus compared life to a stopover on a ship. You can walk the beach and pick up little shells and enjoy yourself, but, when the captain calls, you have to go get back on board.
It’s not “fair” or “unfair.” It’s simply how things work.
Though I prefer how Mehitabel summed it up:
Oh well. wotthehell wotthehell.
Enjoy a few more minutes with a good man: