Old Man Cannot Figure Out What's Happening

Henry Allen, 72, has something to say to the world: What is happening? Where am I? What's going on?

One of the great things about having a long and prestigious career in journalism is that, once you retire, you are still afforded a certain amount of respect. Enough respect, for example, to be published on the op-ed page of the Wall Street Journal, despite having quite literally nothing whatsoever to say about anything. Henry Allen, last seen leaving the Washington Post after punching some dude in the face (ha), still has the juice to get himself a nice op-ed slot. But his... thoughts are another matter.

For the first time in my 72 years, I have no idea what's going on.

I used to be Ziggy Zeitgeist, Harry Hip. I like to think I was especially good on the feeling-tone of the world around me.

Henry, remember when Richard Cohen wrote "I am a funny guy?" You should.

Now I am disquieted. It's not that I see things changing for better or worse, for richer or poorer, or even not changing at all. It's something else: The most important thing in our culture-sphere isn't change but the fact that reality itself is dwindling, fading like sunstruck wallpaper, turning into a silence of the dinner-party sort that leads to a default discussion of movies.

Is some sort of cultural entropy homogenizing us?

Hmm...

Things don't make a difference. I think the last novel to have must-read impact on American culture was "The World According to Garp" in 1978, 35 years ago.

Hmm...

I don't know what's going on. I doubt that anyone does. Is our democracy turning into a power vacuum? What will fill it?

Hmm...

What a strange time it is to be alive in America. It can't stay this way, can it? Or can it?

I've figured out what's going on, Henry: you are getting old.

Glad to be of assistance.

[WSJ. Photo of typical reader who vigorously nodded along with this op-ed: Artis Rams/ Flickr]