My son's induction into the army on July 6th brings home how safe -- and silly -- everything I've ever done has been.
My own background has been oversheltered upper middle class all the way.
The worst part is, it shows: I'm a neurotic mama's boy.
I have a few male hormones, so I did do sports. And I was rebellious enough to smoke marijuana in high school. But I never did any sports that were dangerous. And I never did any of the hard drugs which actually cause damage. (I don't have that many male hormones.)
I still swim competitively, partly because I know it's healthy. (I suppose I could drown, though that seems unlikely at this point.) I drive defensively (though my wife claims otherwise). And I watch what I eat. I don't smoke or drink. (And I haven't smoked marijuana in exactly forty years). I don't even drink coffee. I figure I oughta live to be around a hundred and fifty.
My son just signed a three year contract with the infantry, a combat role, and plans to volunteer to go to Afghanistan. He's certainly broken away from our upper middle class pattern of avoiding danger.
I enjoy mostly inconsequential upper middle class pursuits. Like crossword puzzles. Masters swimming. Scrabble. When I was younger, I enjoyed good (middlebrow) books, and now that I'm older, I enjoy surfing (it might be more accurate to say drowning in) the internet. Appropriately, during its heyday I even enjoyed the trivial pursuit of Trivial Pursuit.
And how well I did on all these activities made not a whit of difference to anybody but me.
This blog, by the way, may be the apotheosis of a self-indulgent trivial pursuit.
All the jobs I've had seem silly and pointless now. Right after college I worked for a couple of advertising agencies. (Even at that age my work seemed silly, and the people who did it even more so.) Then I went to business school and went to Wall Street to become a municipal bond trader. The people there took themselves far too seriously to seem silly; but the work they (and I) did made equally little difference. Some of them kiddingly said that they were helping create liquid markets for the municipal bonds which made it possible for roads and hospitals and sewer systems to be built. But that wasn't what we were really about, we only cared about whether our trades made or lost money, and how much of a bonus we got at the end of the year.
It was just glorified paper shuffling, which made no difference to anybody but us.
The history books will note whether or not the US won this war, and what became of Afghanistan afterwards. They will not note how much money the Goldman Sachs municipal bond department made during the 1980's and 90's. Nor will they note my masters swimming times.
Johnny's personal performance will likely not make a difference in the outcome of the war. But at least he will have participated in history.
Whether my son survives this war, of course, makes a world of difference to several people.
If he doesn't, all the care I've taken of myself will seem particularly pointless.