“When she [Philosophy] saw that the Muses of poetry were present by my couch giving words to my lamenting, she was stirred a while; her eyes flashed fiercely, and said she, “Who has suffered these seducing mummers to approach this sick man? Never do they support those in sorrow by any healing remedies, but rather do ever foster the sorrow by poisonous sweets. These are they who stifle the fruit-bearing harvest of reason with the barren briars of the passions: they free not the minds of men from disease, but accustom them thereto.””
What of 2016? As the Roman philosopher Boethius wrote of his consolation by Lady Philosophy, we have a choice. We can indulge in our lamentations, or we can, through our reason, find a way forward. Perhaps we can let Lady Philosophy take it from here to guide us in this way.
I thought of many muses to guide me through this past year, when a woman came to me in classical robes. She was at once as tall as a giant, yet comforting and approachable. Then she began to speak.
“I see you, reading the various years in review of 2016 to draw inspiration for this annual post,” she began, “I see nothing but hot takes and articles dripping with lament or sarcasm. Let me assure you, this 2016 had its positive aspects.”
2016 Was a Good Year to Be…
Lady Philosophy continued, “Behold my friend, for the medium of animation, that artform long taken for granted, had a very strong 2016. Six of the twenty top grossing movies of the year were animated. With each passing decade, animation continues to bring inspiration and joy without the limitations of live action film. 2016 was in many ways a landmark year in this regard.”
“I should also point out to you that a great year need not mean a consistently great one wire to wire. If something is felled low by the failure of an ill-conceived vanity project about classic rock in the spring, it can rise again through the premiere for two excellent shows in the fall. Westworld has broken HBO’s losing streak when it comes to new dramas, and Insecure has continued its success in popular comedies”
“If it is further inspiration you seek, behold the resurgence of the Great White Way as a force in American popular culture. Hamilton was the most popular musical in decades, and live broadcasts of musicals on network television are exceptionally popular. Indeed, one of this year’s top Oscar contenders, “La-La Land,” is a Hollywood musical of the old style.”
2016 Was a Bad Year to Be
1) A Franchise from the 1980’s or 1990’s
Lady Philosophy continued. “While there were failures in 2016, I would counsel to learn from them rather than merely list them in a vain and sarcastic manner. Box Office disappointments from the Ninja Turtles, Ghostbusters, Independence Day, and Zoolander sequels should not be seen as affecting those fine memories of past success, but rather stand as stark reminders that not everything deserves a reboot or a sequel.”
2) “A List” Hollywood Marriages
“I also prescribe an end to your consideration of the troubled Depp/Heard and Pitt/Jolie marriages. As troubling as the allegations associated with these divorces are, it is important to remember that you don’t know these people. You will never meet them. Their relationships have no impact on your life whatsoever.”
3) Internet and Social Media
“At last, I see that you are troubled by what you read on the internet and on social media platforms. It might feel as though you cannot escape the constant stream of opinion and information. You might feel that this has damaged your interactions with your fellows beyond repair, or trapped you in a vicious cycle of anger and mistrust. Let me assure you that the old ways are still alive. You can read a book and discuss it with a friend. You can watch a movie with your significant other and discuss it over snacks afterwards. You might feel the need to broadcast your feelings to the masses, but I would counsel you to remember that your friends and family are much more receptive to your ideas than the faceless void of the internet will ever be.”
Lady Philosophy cautioned me against creating a list of best movies this year. She said to me, “Indeed you have not seen enough movies to truly make an honest “best of” list. But keep in mind that such lists are flawed. They lack the distance truly needed to examine and appreciate film as an artform. As much as you enjoyed “Captain America: Civil War,” can you say it is the best blockbuster of the year when you haven’t seen the new Star Wars movie yet? As for artistic films, look at past years. Does anyone really believe, with the proper distance, that “Crash,” “The English Patient,” or “The Greatest Show on Earth” were worthy of Best Picture Oscars? I would advise against indulging in such listicles.”
Dispatches from the Great Ale House in the Sky
This year, Lady Philosophy especially wanted to talk about the Great Ale House in the Sky. She said, “I will prescribe the strongest medicine of all to help you acknowledge the many fine artists that left you this past year. It is medicine that you, yourself, have often shared.
“Remember, it is the story that matters, not how long it lasts or how it ends. Artists and inventors have the greatest stories of all, for their influence stays with us the longest and carries us all forward. If it is useful for you to imagine these great artists together, I will partially indulge in this fantasy, but I will do so in a way that will help you, rather than a way that extends your sorrow.
“Perhaps this Ale House is in the form of a great music festival, where Prince, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, George Michael and others come together. You could find great joy in that fantasy. But you need not – for the music is still there.
“Or maybe, you imagine that Carrie Fisher, Alan Rickman, Florence Henderson, Abe Vigoda, Gene Wilder, Kenny Baker and others are still in talks for various roles. These people may have never met in life, but it is fun to think about them doing so in your Great Ale House in the Sky. I would advise an alternative – put on their films and television shows. You can even do so with the fights of Muhammad Ali – which are readily available on the internet.”
And with that, Lady Philosophy left me in a better place. The place that honors rather than mourns. The place that learns from the mistakes of others. The place that sees and emphasizes the positive. There is great strength and great joy here.
(c) 2016 D.G. McCabe