The inspiration for this title came to me last evening as I watched the Syrians on the nightly news playing real-life Angry Birds among themselves. For those of you who are not already addicted, Angry Birds is a smart-phone game app where one flings various tiny cartoon birds via a slingshot at little green pigs who are hiding within various rickety structures. The little avian, which become lethal projectiles upon release and tend to explode on contact, are the means by which one pursues the objective of the game, which is to obliterate the protective structures and wipe out all those little green piggies, who have apparently gotten the birds riled up for some reason. I would recommend staying away from this app if you have any intention of continuing to include actual personal relationships in whatever may be left of your life.
With regard to Syria, though, we have certainly seen all this before. But oftentimes transitions are required to get us to a better place. That “better place” for those Middle Easterners will hopefully be some form of self-directed government that will allow them to transition into the modern world. A good start might include learning to use their cell phones to play Angry Birds rather than using them to remotely detonate roadside bombs.
For some reason it seems that transitions are always painful””or, at the very least, hard work. Some turning points most of us have gone through in the course of our lives include graduating from high school or college, getting our first job, getting married and having children. Every one of these transitions, as we all know, completely alters the direction of a person’s life. But, it’s those pesky, uninvited changes that are thrust upon us from out of the blue that can be the most challenging: the passing of a loved one; getting laid off from work; discovering that one has a dreaded disease; having one’s Netflix account cut off. Thus, we are plunged into situations that require us to cope, manage and recover. And this often requires diligence, courage and persistence. (Regarding persistence: have you ever tried to get a Netflix rep on the phone?)
I have managed to survive all of the unexpected changes in my life so far. But all too often I have ended up with a big mess by the time I was finished. Divorces come to mind (is that a plural?). And each of my career-related transitions has almost always been pretty much a train wreck. But, I guess my point in all of this is that we do, indeed, survive. We get up, dust ourselves off, and head back into the fray.
Speaking of train wrecks, over the past five years or so I have been following global politics a little more closely than I had in my more youthful years, as you may have noticed occasionally from my commentary. Most recently I have watched the Greeks and our other European friends play their own versions of Angry Birds in the form of street riots, which, for my generation, are reminiscent of our own riots back in the 60s when America was struggling to transition its citizens of color into the mainstream of society. Back in 2008 we all watched in terror as our nation was brought to its knees by a devastating financial crisis. And then, of course, our history books tell us how our forebears had to endure a brutal civil war and the truly Great Depression of the 1930s. These were all remarkable transitions, of course. And now, as the world turns, I think every adult citizen in this country who is paying even the slightest bit of attention has a sense that America may be on the cusp of yet another sea change.
Not to be a “Chicken Little,” I bow to the optimists who cite the Greeks’ ability to once again push their painful and inevitable decision-making into the future, hoping, perhaps, for an economic miracle in the meantime. And while entertaining miracles, perhaps we can take the Mullahs in Iran at their word when they tell the world that they really have no intention of developing a weaponized nuclear device, even as they seem to continue to stall for time in order to do just that. And, okay, there have been signs of improvement in our economy, too, over the past few months, not to mention the fizzling out of the occupy-one-place-or-another fad. So, is this the proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel” we see ahead of us?
Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m heading for the bar car””it’s back by the caboose.