Monday, February 16, 2015

Worth God's While

This morning, as every morning, I read from my favorite poet, G. M. Hopkins. Today, I opened my complete Hopkins at random, and my eye fell on the following passage, which I would like to share with you, for its beauty, and its spiritual uplift:

But what we have not done yet we can do now, what we have done badly hitherto we can do well henceforward, we can repent our sins and begin to give God glory. The moment we do this we reach the end of our being, we do and are what we were made for, we make it worth God's while to have created us. This is a comforting thought: we need not wait in fear till death; any day, any minute we bless God for our being or for anything, for food, for sunlight, we do and are what we were meant for, made for -- things that give and mean to give God glory. This is a thing to live for. Then make haste so to live.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Man in the Mirror

Well, no sooner had I written that denying that the Islamic terrorists are Muslims (as the president does), would be like denying that the Crusaders were Christians, than Mr. Obama uses the Crusades as a means of chastening us, declaring that we should not "get up on our high horse," because terrible things have been done in the name of Christianity.

In making this sophistic moral equivocation, the president does not realize that he has undercut his own position. If horrors were committed by the Crusaders in the name of Christ, then the Islamists' horrors are being committed in the name of Allah. And if the Crusaders were Christians, which he affirms, then the terrorists are Muslims, which he denies. He cannot have it both ways; of course, unless the media permits him to do so, which they have.

And now comes the latest embarrassment: the Man in the Mirror, stick-selfie episode. I could not at first understand what I was seeing -- I thought it was some kind of parody or joke. I did not realize that it had actually been done by the president; but when that was clear, though it came as little surprise, it was nonetheless shocking to me. Who advises this man? Who tells him that such stunts are acceptable, even cool? And what the hell was the president thinking? What does he think his job is? This is a man who does not have time to mourn the public murder of American journalists and aid workers, but has plenty of time for golf; a man who could not manage to attend the massive free speech rally in Paris, but permitted himself to be interviewed by a woman in fluorescent green lipstick who bathes in breakfast cereal; a man who has no time to meet with the Prime Minister of Israel, coming to warn us of the Iranian nuclear threat, but who does find time to play the fool in front of a mirror, before the entire world.

This is shameful, it is a disgrace. Leaving aside the impression that this spectacle must make on the minds of our enemies -- real people who really want to kills us -- it demeans the presidency in a way that should have been unthinkable. Not long ago, Bill O'Reilly was taken to task for his aggressive questioning of the president in an interview, on the grounds that he was disrespecting "the majesty of the office." Well, so much for the majesty of the office.

The only effort to defend Mr. Obama's buffoonery was the lame argument that he was trying to appeal to Millenials to sign up for his health care scheme. Which makes one wonder: Just how stupid and shallow does he think the current generation is? Does he, or do his advisers, really think that this kind of clownish behavior on the part of the President of the United States, will appeal to the younger generation? Any intelligent, informed young person would find it scandalous.

It is true that Franklin Roosevelt appeared jovial in many of his public appearances, and that Abraham Lincoln liked to tell jokes. But neither descended to this level of foolishness; neither demeaned the dignity of the office. That this president has done so at a time when the world is in such a dangerous state, when Islamo-fascists are burning, beheading, and crucifying innocents, and old-fashioned Russian imperialism has resurrected itself, when there are very serious people very seriously threatening our civilization, makes me question more than Mr. Obama's judgment; it makes me question his sanity.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015


--This is 2015 AD, not 1015 AD. Yet much of our national conversation is taken up with such matters as torture, beheading, crucifixion, and burning at the stake, or in a cage as the case may be. I admit that I am puzzled, and dismayed. Does progress count for nothing? Does civilization count for nothing? Does evolution count for nothing? How have we, at this late date in human history, returned to the Dark Ages? In one corner of the Earth we have marvelous tools of science and technology, and in another, human beings crucified and burned in public. On the same stage we have Beauty and the Beast. How can the race generate and tolerate such contradictions? It is enough to make one believe in the religious concept of the End Times. The poet said, Surely some revelation is at hand. Yet I begin to feel that, Surely some annihilation is at hand. No species can long endure such dislocations in its behavior. Beauty or bestiality; progress or regress, hope or despair. As Lincoln said, We will become entirely one thing or the other.

--I could not bring myself to watch the video of the public immolation of the Jordanian pilot by ISIS. There are just some images you should not allow into your consciousness. But I listened to discussions of it at some length, saw the images of the young man and of his family, and lay awake last night wondering what it all meant for us as humans. I will tell you one sad spectacle I did watch: that of our President's milquetoast and mumbling comment on it, in which he said that "whatever ideology" was behind it is bankrupt. No ringing condemnation, no decisive course of action, not even a willingness to identify who the villains are and what they stand for. 

Who they are is Islamo-fascists, fanatical corrupters of one of the world's leading religions. And what they stand for is the annihilation of civilization in the name of a new Caliphate. Why the President cannot or will not admit this remains a puzzle, not just to me, but to nearly everyone who has commented on the fact. It would be as if we tried to deny that the Crusaders were Christians. Of course they were; a manifestation of a militant and vile view of Christianity which had nothing to do with the essential spirit of the religion. But nothing would be gained by denying that they were motivated by, and acted in the name of, Christianity. History would be distorted, its interpretation would be impossible. The President is a jihad-denier. And that is as dangerous as any form of historical denial. 

--I know something about the Crusades, or the first one, at least. I researched and wrote a book about it, read the contemporaneous accounts, as well as dozens of subsequent studies of it. The Crusaders, most of them, were religious zealots, though their leaders were as motivated by wealth, greed, and power as by religion. They armed themselves and spread across the known world, bringing bloodshed, rape, torture, massacre, beheading, burning, and even cannibalism into every land they conquered. And they did it all in the name of religion. Does that not sound horribly familiar? Yet that was 1000 years ago. I had thought the human race had progressed far beyond that point. Evidently, it has not. Somebody ought to tell the President.

--I have written before that I regard J. S. Bach as the greatest artist of our civilization, and I have commented that I think some of his keyboard work, such as the Italian Concerto and the French and English Suites are as close to perfection as one will ever get in this world. I could not help but think of them in these past few terrible weeks, and listen to them, and cling to them as to a lifeline. And that gave me some comfort, and some hope that perhaps we as a race may yet endure, in spite of everything.

--I have recently begun re-reading Somerset Maugham. I was hoping that my twelve-year-old, who has been reading through and enjoying Kurt Vonnegut, would take a liking to Maugham. He has not, and I can see why. I read Maugham in college, and loved his work; I have often said that every young man should read The Razor's Edge while he is still young. I think it a beautiful and thought-provoking novel. But in reading Maugham again, I realize that his prose is far too elegant, far too meticulous, and far too embedded in an extinct culture of manners and insouciance to catch the attention of even a very bright pre-teen. But I am enjoying him again. Gore Vidal said that no one writing in the Twentieth Century could avoid Maugham "because he is so there." It is charming to discover that, in my consciousness at least, he is still here.

--These have been ambling thoughts; the reason for which I began this blog several years ago. I wanted a forum in which I could record my thinking about... well, about just anything that crossed my mind. I have tried to do so as clearly and frankly as I could. My thinking has changed over those years, as one's thinking always must in time, and part of that change has been due to writing these posts, and going back and reading through them. This blog has been a sort of intellectual diary, and I have tried to do my best to keep it going, and keep it honest.

At the outset, I was faced with the question of whether or not I would allow comments to be published on my posts. I decided that I would, both out of curiosity, and in the expectation that my readers' comments would help me to clarify my thinking. I follow Lincoln's dictum: I will adopt new views as quickly as they shall be proved to be true views. Of my readers I asked only that their comments be to the point, that is, that they refer to the content of my posts, and that they be brief, and civil in tone.

Initially they were, and I enjoyed reading and responding to them. But when I wrote a film script about Tupac Shakur, that changed. I received so many ugly, obscene, and insulting comments from purported fans of Tupac that I was obliged to pre-screen all comments before publishing them. This I have done for the past three or four years. I have read all comments, and published and responded only to those which I felt were relevant to the posts, civil in tone, and to which I had not already responded in detail. 

In recent months, however, the tone of the comments has again turned ugly. Anonymous readers have been leaving comments filled with venom and vituperation so regularly that I was forced to decide that I would not publish any anonymous comment, and, more recently, that I would not even read them. To those anonymous individuals I say: If you so dislike what I write, then read someone else. If you are incapable of voicing your opinions in a civil and rational manner, then why should I or anyone else take you seriously? And if you are too cowardly to identify yourself with your views, why should I acknowledge you?

Also, I have found that some readers use the comments section of my blog to air their views in elaborate detail. I would remind those people that I started this blog in order to air my views, not those of others. If you wish to record your thoughts and opinions at length, do what I did: Start your own blog. But please do not malign me for refusing to allow my forum to be usurped by you.

Writing a blog has taught me many things. I have been reassured that there are people out there who appreciate frank and controversial views, and enjoy engaging in reasoned and apposite discussion. But I have also learned how many nasty, bloody-minded, and petty people there are in cyber space. It used to be that such people were restricted to ranting in the privacy of their homes, or venting to the few friends they had left, or just wandering the streets shouting at cars. Now, thanks to technology and the Internet, the whole world is their stage.

Well, I am sorry to have to tell you that my little corner of that stage will no longer be available to them. I have reluctantly decided to disable comments on this blog. There is simply too much ugliness in the world without my allowing my forum to add to it. I will continue to write, and I hope that you will continue to read. And I shall miss the input of those who have encouraged me and stimulated my thinking these many years.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Playing the Odds

I am going to begin and end this post with the same words, just so there is no misunderstanding: Get your children vaccinated.

That said, the recent outbreak of measles has prompted a national debate on the question of vaccination, and whether it should be mandatory. I was surprised to learn that about sixteen percent of parents choose not to vaccinate, and in some communities, like Santa Monica and Beverly Hills, the rate is much higher. The primary reason for this reluctance to vaccinate is the concern of parents that vaccination may cause autism.

Now, there is, so far as I understand it, no scientific evidence linking vaccination and autism, though there is some anecdotal evidence. And anecdotal evidence, while it can be emotionally affecting, is virtually worthless in determining matters of public policy, and even of personal decision-making. I once had a young woman tell me that she needn't stop smoking because her grandmother smokes and is healthy and 80 years old. There is simply nothing to this kind of reasoning, and it should not be allowed to determine important decisions.

One of those important decisions is whether or not to vaccinate a child. The autism link that has moved many parents not to vaccinate seems to have been alleged in a published study of a very small sample of children. That study has been discredited, and its author, I learned today, has lost his medical license. Nonetheless, the idea has stuck with some people, usually fuzzy thinkers who believe that disease can be prevented by eating natural foods and practicing holistic medicine, which explains, I suppose, why the rate of non-vaccinators is so high on the West Side of Los Angeles.

(I was stunned this morning when I heard the chief political correspondent for the Huffington Post declare on MSNBC {Yes, I do watch it occasionally.}, that the Koch Brothers are responsible for the measles outbreak. His logic ran thus: Right-wing parents who mistrust the government opt out of vaccination because they think there is a government conspiracy to harm their children. They are, he said, the same kinds of people who deny climate change because they listen to media outlets funded by the Koch Brothers. So: Conservative activists, right-wing media, climate change denial, no vaccinations, measles outbreak in California. And Rachel Maddow just nodded and did not object, and thanked the man for his input. And so, the measles has, inevitably, become a divisive political matter, as does everything in America these days.)

I can remember vividly sitting in the pediatrician's office with my first son on my knee while she held the vaccination needle in her hand. I balked. Though he was very young, I could see that he had a remarkable brain, was highly intelligent, and I had heard the rumors about autism. I agonized over the possibility that he might have an allergic reaction to the vaccine which would damage that beautiful mind. And so I spent a lot of time talking to the doctor about it, before I finally agreed to go ahead. She vaccinated him, and nothing bad happened. He was the first of my vaccinated genius children.

But at least the pediatrician took the time to talk to me, and let me decide. And I made the right decision, primarily on the basis that there was a 99% probability that my son would have no adverse reaction to the vaccine.

Now this is the point I would like to make, and I hope that parents will listen to it. Every major decision you will make in your child's young life will involve risk of some kind. There are simply no guarantees in parenting. What you must do as a responsible parent is to play the best odds you can get. If, for example, you went to Vegas and were told that there was a 99% chance that you would win at a game, wouldn't you take those odds? Of course you would. That is what we as parents must do, especially in matters of our children's health and well-being.

There are now calls for legislation to require parents to vaccinate their children, and I am quite sure that such a bill will be introduced in Congress in the near future. And if the Congress can mandate that we buy health insurance whether we want to or not, what is to stop it from mandating that we vaccinate our children whether we want to or not? Imagine the spectacle: Parents who for whatever reason refuse vaccination are arrested, their children taken away by police, and a needle jabbed into their flesh against their parents' wishes. It would be the public health equivalent of Elian Gonzales.

We live in a putatively free society, and the children are ours. Not our property - our children; there is a difference. And we must have the freedom to raise them as we think best. Still, I have held for years that no parent has the right to volunteer his child to suffer for his beliefs, no matter how strongly he holds them. This is equally true in matters of religion and health. Thus, those parents who refuse vaccination on religious grounds are not taking a risk: they are volunteering their children to take that risk. And I believe it is wrong for them to do this.

If there is an overwhelming probability that vaccinating your child will mean he or she will never contract measles, mumps, rubella, smallpox, tuberculosis, scarlet fever, typhoid, typhus, tetanus, polio, pneumonia and other diseases that have ravaged human history, you have a responsibility to play the odds and get the vaccine.

But that being said, the government should not be allowed to compel you to do so under penalty of law. This would only further intrude the power of government into our personal lives, narrowing our freedom of choice, and infringing our personal liberty. And that is too heavy a price to pay in response to 100 cases of measles. What then should be done?

If parents feel they have compelling reasons to refuse vaccination, and insist on doing so despite all the evidence to the contrary, and despite the overwhelming probability that nothing will bad will happen, and knowing what the consequence may be, then they must take the consequences on themselves. Their children will not be allowed to attend school, but must be home-schooled, or must attend a school with other non-vaccinated children. If a child becomes ill, the parents cannot insist that the rest of us pay for his treatment. If the child suffers serious or permanent damage (which, though unlikely, is possible), then they alone are responsible for paying the cost of care. In short: If you choose not to vaccinate, you, and you alone, are responsible for the consequences.

Of course, as I have said, it is not the parents who will suffer the most serious consequences of the decision not to vaccinate - it is the children who will. And because this is true, and because the children are our responsibility (not property), we must play the odds, which are overwhelmingly in our favor, and get our children vaccinated.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Good Legs, Bad Legs

I was thinking the other day that it is good that George Orwell isn't alive to see what's happening. Then I reflected that perhaps it would be better if he was; he might actually have something to say about it. Perhaps he could snap us out of the stupor into which we've fallen... and make it clear whether two legs or four legs are, in fact, better.

Only the most recent examples:

The White House has begun an advertising campaign to support the President's illegal alien amnesty executive order. Now, the President had stated on over twenty separate occasions that he did not have the Constitutional authority to issue such an order. I heard him say it myself. Yet, when he did issue the order, he claimed that it was within his Constitutional authority to do so.

Two legs or four?

The thrust of the current PR campaign is to convince the American public that amnesty is good for the economy. Yet just six years ago in one of his memoirs (how many is a man entitled to?), the President stated that amnesty for illegals would be bad for the economy.

Four legs or two?

The President celebrated the release of Sgt. Bergdahl in a Rose Garden ceremony, and his National Security adviser declared on television that he had served honorably and with distinction. Now the Army has concluded that he was a deserter and will bring charges against him, and the White House is doing everything it can to prevent both the release of the findings and the pressing of charges. "Bergdahl is a hero," runs the logic, "and so we must not allow the public to know that he is a deserter."

Two legs or four?

And now, in the latest Orwellian contortion of logic, the Administration declares that the Taliban are not a terrorist organization. These are the same Taliban who offered a safe haven to Al Qaeda in Afghanistan from which 9/11 was planned, who have carried on an unrelenting and merciless campaign of terror in Pakistan and Afghanistan, who shot a Nobel Peace Prize winning child in the head for trying to attend school, who slaughtered an entire school full of children, and who, just yesterday, murdered two Americans in an attack on an airbase disguised as Afghan soldiers. They are the same Taliban who stone women to death for adultery, cut off the hands of thieves, and behead people in soccer stadiums for violating Sharia law. They are, by any conceivable definition of the word, among the most dangerous terrorists in the world. Yet, as of today, according to Mr. Obama's press secretary, they are not a terrorist organization, they are an "armed insurgency."

And why? The Administration negotiated with the Taliban for the release of Sgt. Bergdahl in exchange for five Taliban terrorist leaders. But the longstanding policy of the United States has been that we do not negotiate with terrorists. Yet we did negotiate with the Taliban, and so, deductively, the Taliban must not be terrorists. They are, instead, an armed insurgency. Just like the Continental Army.

Four legs or two?

Orwell made famous the question of how many legs are good, how many bad, to make the point that some leaders will distort logic to any extent necessary to serve their personal and political agendas. Doing so has been a hallmark of the Obama Administration. And allowing this President to get away with such egregious lies and contradictions has been a hallmark of the media which did so much to put him, and keep him, in office. Mercifully, he will be gone in a year and a half. What troubles me is that the same servile media who have covered for him these past six years will still be in place after he is gone.

And Hillary Clinton looms.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Kim and Sony

I suppose it is time for me to comment on the Sony Pictures hacking scandal. Now, before I begin, I must say that I have worked on many projects at Sony, and I have long regarded their executive team as one of the best and brightest in the studio system. For me, SPE is a kind of second home in the film business. In particular, Amy Pascal, the co-CEO, whom I have known for some twenty years, has become a good friend. I consider her to be among the most honorable, intelligent, sincere, honest and supportive executives in the industry, and her friendship is among the proudest possessions of my career.

Now to hear her pilloried in the press by people who cannot even pronounce her name properly is painful to me. On the strength of a few casual, joking remarks about the President's taste in films, she has been branded a racist. This accusation is obscene. Amy Pascal has given more opportunities and breaks to people of color than anyone I know in the business. There is not a racist instinct in her being. But such is the reflexive venom and vulture-like mercilessness of the cable news cycle.

To my mind there are two principal questions that arise out of the hacking scandal. The first is: Why was The Interview made in the first place? It appears to be a silly, shallow comedy, scarcely worth local attention, let alone international debate. Now I am aware, perhaps more than most, that the studios routinely crank out such glossy insignificance. But why, through the years-long production process, did no one say: Change the dictator's name. We all would have known who was being referred to, and the whole mess might have been avoided.

The answer is a phenomenon I have often observed in Hollywood: Once a film is green-lighted and goes into production, no one asks any of the fundamental questions anymore. There is simply too much at stake: millions of dollars, hundreds of jobs, dozens of careers. So if anyone (like me, for instance - I am famous for it), dares to raise a basic question, such as: Is this necessary? Does this make sense? Is it any good? Isn't it stupid or dangerous? he or she (usually me) is simply fired. Once the giant engine of production is set in motion, no one is allowed to derail it with even a hint of logic. Now, we all know that, like the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church, the government of North Korea has no sense of humor. And yet no one at Sony appears to have said: Won't making this film have serious political repercussions? It simply reinforces a point I have long argued -- that if any other business were run like the film business, it would be out of business.

The second question that arises is: Why did Sony decide to pull the film? I thought at the time, and I still think, that the correct course would have been to put the film into as wide a release as possible, challenging the public to rally to it as an affirmation of the power of free speech, even if it meant charging a buck for admission. That the public would have responded appears to be proved by the fact that The Interview has made fifteen million in its secretive, selective release. People seem to want to see it precisely because the North Koreans have threatened reprisals (though there is absolutely no evidence that the hackers are capable of carrying out such violence).

The Interview might thus have been transformed from an embarrassment into a cause célèbre, a rallying point for those of us who refuse to be intimidated by bullies and tyrants. Instead, Sony compounded the fiasco by seeming to cave in to pressure from, of all places, Pyongyang. This craven capitulation before thuggishness sets a very dangerous precedent that goes beyond Sony and even the film business: it represents nothing less than an abandonment of faith in the principle of free speech in face of official intimidation.

And so I think that Sony's decision not to release the film, based on the apparent unwillingness of theater chains to distribute it, was a serious mistake, but a fairly typical response of institutional self-preservation. When push comes to shove, protect the institution. This, to my thinking, reveals a deeper fault than even the hackers could have exposed; namely, that the instinct of any corporate body in the face of moral crisis is not courage but fear; not self-examination but self-defense.

This is the same reflex that was exhibited by the Catholic Church and Penn State in response to their child sex abuse scandals, and it is always self-destructive. What Sony really needs to learn from this experience, it seems to me, is not how to revamp its technology, but its corporate courage.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Which Ones Are the Roses?

I have from time to time quoted here from my favorite poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins, both from his published poems and from his diaries and notebooks. With regard to the latter, I have made the point that they contain prose that is finer and more lyrical, more poetical and profound, than most other writers' polished work. And yet these were notes that he jotted down, usually inspired by his observations of Nature.

I read from Hopkins every day, and just yesterday I came across the following notebook entry (October 29, 1870), prompted by an early frost:

...I found one morning the ground in one corner of the garden full of small pieces of potsherd from which there rose up (and not dropped off) long icicles  carried on in some way each like a forepitch of the shape of the piece of the potsherd it grew on, like a tooth to its root for instance, and most of them bended over and curled like so many tusks or horns or, best of all and what they looked likest when they first caught my eye, the first soft root-spurs thrown out from a sprouting chestnut. This bending of the icicle seemed so far as I could see not merely a resultant, where the smaller spars of which it was made were still straight, but to have flushed them too.

And a few days before, he noted this about the flood of the nearby river:

...Yesterday it was a sallow glassy gold at Hodder Roughs and by watching hard the banks began to sail upstream, the scaping unfolded, the river was all in tumult but not running, only the lateral motions were perceived, and the curls of froth where the waves overlap shaped and turned easily and idly... Today the river was wild, very full, glossy brown with mud furrowed in permanent billows through which from head to head the water swung with a great down and up again. These heads were scalped with rags of jumping foam. But at the Roughs the sight was the burly water-backs which heave after heave kept tumbling up from the broken foam and their plum heap turning open in ropes of velvet...

As I have remarked before, no one sees the world in this way anymore. We are losing our sense of Nature, and with it, our sense of our own humanity. Earlier in my life this numbing disconnect was a question of speed and an obsession with productivity and materialism. Now, increasingly, it is a question of technology. Everywhere I turn, people's faces are fixated on miniature screens, of cell phones and iPads and laptops. Even at the dinner table people not only do not talk to one another, they no longer so much as look at one another, so fascinated are they by the virtual reality in their palms. And this palmistry, I fear, bodes the future. Yet it is nothing new.

Recently I read with my son Ray Bradbury's short story "The Veldt" about children in his imagined future so addicted to the fantasy world of their electronic devices that they lose all sense of humanity, morality, even reality. They prefer the pixilated projections on the walls of their room to contact with their fellow human beings, even with their parents. And that, in Bradbury's story, results in tragedy.

Our current obsession with a miniature video world is, I think, stripping us slowly but surely of an essential aspect of our humanity: the ability to see Nature, and to understand that we are a part of it, and not of the virtual flat-screen world. That manufactured world is an adjunct to our consciousness, not an expression of our essence. And while that adjunct is useful and entertaining, the essence is what we are and why we are on Earth. To the extent that the virtual world is supplanting the Natural world, especially in the lives of our children, our future is in peril.

We must, I believe, rescue our young people from the addiction to electronics just as we would from an addiction to nicotine or alcohol. For both serve to dull and distort and destroy consciousness, and with consciousness go morality and humanity.

Hopkins clearly understood that Nature is the affect of the divine; that through it we gain an understanding not only of ourselves, but of that transcendent reality from which our souls spring. Nature, in his view, is what connects us to the truth about our humanity - our human nature: that it is beautiful and ordered, spontaneous and meticulously plotted and paced by a spirit that both infuses us on Earth and summons us to eternity. For him, Nature is a mirror in which our destiny is reflected.

Now, I am not saying that we should all go gazing at the icicles, but we must retain a basic understanding of and sensitivity to the world of Nature around us. We ought to encourage our children to spend at least some time learning about Nature, and to looking at it and thinking about it; time, in effect, to take the world outside into our world within. If we do not, I fear, that Nature within us will wither and die.

Not long ago I asked a young friend of mine to look after my garden while I was out of town. As it was very hot, I asked her to please water the roses. She looked at me with a bland expression and inquired, "Which ones are the roses?"

Wake up and smell them? She couldn't even dream of them. And that, in itself, is a tragedy.