Famous start addresses, updates for the pandemic

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DAVID FOSTER WALLACE

There are these two young dolphins swimming along a relatively pristine canal in Venice and they meet an older dolphin, swimming the other way around, who nods to them and says, “Hello, the boys. How is the water?

And the two young dolphins swim around for a bit, then, finally, one of them looks at the other and says, “What is water?”

And the other dolphin says, “Maybe that stuff that isn’t cigarette butts or half-eaten pizza crusts is water?”

And the first dolphin said, “No kidding. I think I quite like the water, although it took a while to get used to it when the norm until now has been basically cigarette butts and half eaten pizza crusts.

JOHN F. KENNEDY

Our problems are man-made – therefore, they can be solved by man. Except, of course, for those few big problems that were created by the pangolins. In which case, I urge each of you to ask yourself, “What are the pangolins doing to help solve this mess?” “

OPRAH WINFREY

Let excellence be your mark. Yes! But, failing that, leave Apple: have you seen their share price? Or Amazon. Or Facebook. In fact, Big Tech generally appears to be a safe bet.

GLORIA STEINEM

No matter what you want to do, do it now. For life is time, and time is all there is. That said, if what you want to do requires getting together with other people inside, make sure certain protocols are in place. And smash a window. And, in fact, are you fully vaccinated? You are not? In this case, have you considered doing maybe the thing you want to do? after are you fixing that? Maybe even postpone it until you get your reminder? I’m just spitting here, but is there any chance that the thing you want to do works better as an email?

TONI MORRISON

But the point is that the future is not up to you for the taking. And it’s not whatever you do with it. The future is also what others make of it, how others will participate in it and interfere with your experience. How the amateur tap dancer, who lives in the apartment above yours, got to practice his routines at home. How your kids, those curious little homeschoolers, suddenly seem determined to embarrass you in the middle of Zoom with trick questions about isosceles triangles. How your neighbor, who recently started cooking her own meats, turned your entire floor into a smokehouse.

OPRAH WINFREY

. . . Or you can play in the commodity markets. And always diversify; spread your risk. Some low yielding bonds or blue chip stocks, some high risk investments, say, have you heard of this thing called “crypto”?

GEORGE SAUNDER

What I regret the most in my life are the failures of kindness. Or not to buy that cottage in the upstate a few years ago – it’s a close call. Like, yeah, I wish I could have been nicer at times. But I would also have liked – before this whole pandemic thing started – to have grabbed that little slice of isolation, which was selling for the equivalent of about three months’ rent in Williamsburg. I could have planted a vegetable garden, built a henhouse. I could have turned the shed into a pottery workshop. Look, I’m sorry for all the mean words I’ve said, really I am. But I think I’m more sorry for the chalet.

AMY POEHLER

Try to put down your iPhones every now and then. Instead, try looking at people’s faces on your laptop screen, through a window, behind a mask, or from a distance.


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