Opening Remarks

It has been quite a year, hasn’t it?

We’ve experienced the fallout from hurricanes. We’ve outlasted economic hard times — at least, so far. We’ve survived bitter and partisan political campaigns.

All the while, we’ve been adapting to major changes in our lives. Gasoline prices have jumped up and down faster than the temperature, and that’s saying something here in Texas. Jobs and money have come and gone pretty quickly, too, for many of us. Electronics have changed the way we live, and not always for the better — there are very few places anymore to run and hide for a few minutes, and there are few places where we can be totally out of touch.

I don’t know if that’s such a great thing, either, and I say this as someone who keeps a cell phone in his pocket all of the time. Because there is something to be said for solitude, something to be said for time spent alone, without interruption, thinking about where we’ve been and where we’re going. And there’s something to be said, on occasion, for time spent thinking about
nothing at all.

I read an interesting story a while ago in a newspaper called the Financial Times, one of the bibles of economics and capitalism and business. It was an odd place to see the headline “Yes, recession has its blessings” mixed in among lengthy stories about Treasury bond yields and profit and loss statements and questions about the integrity of the world financial system.

But there it was: a story about how bad times can be good times to think about quiet times.

Some of the things the writer, Harry Eyres, said struck me as worth repeating:

“One of the positive outcomes of an economic slowdown may be that people can once again think of and experience their homes as homes, not as appreciating assets …

“How, if you don’t walk, can you get the feel of a neighborhood, its nooks and crannies, individual buildings and trees and gardens, or the still more subtle scents and sights of the countryside? You don’t even need to walk to enjoy staying put …

“I spent an hour just sitting in a chair in our little garden, basking in warmth, listening to the peaceful sounds of washing-up, a child babbling, the wind rustling the leaves …

“The word ‘recession’ implies drawing back, rather than proceeding ever onwards and upwards. Now we have a chance not just to stay put, but to appreciate being where we are …”

And that is my wish this holiday season for you and your loved ones, as it is for me and mine: No matter how much change we may encounter and be forced to endure in the year ahead, I hope we each find the time and place to appreciate just being where we are, wherever that may be.


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