Letter to the editor: Nuovo’s work appreciated

In recent weeks I’ve found myself wondering if we’d ever be lucky enough to get another column by the inestimable Victor Nuovo. While I haven’t always agreed with everything he says, his was still my favorite column in the paper, and I worried that he might be retiring from this vocation as age created other priorities for him. I was thrilled to open last week’s edition to have my worries dashed and my concerns directly addressed in one of Mr. Nuovo’s greatest and most beautiful columns yet, discussing aging. (Am I in Victor’s head, or is he in mine?)

In my youth, I imagined studying Buddhism one day. While I never bothered, I appreciate Mr. Nuovo’s distilling for us surely one of its most crucial elements, the “joyful wisdom” of letting go. If we could all focus on doing so just a little more, the world would surely be a bit better for it. This, along with Kant’s celebration of “the freedom to do the right thing,” are key lessons in the brilliant tv sitcom, “The Good Place,” one of my my wife’s and my favorite shows. Having just finished perhaps our fifth or sixth rewatching of the series, many of its lessons were still floating around in my head, priming me especially well to receive Mr. Nuovo’s column this week.

I loved the description of the “awakening state of mind.” It’s a place I find myself in nearly every morning, with my mind a little too loose, and personal doubts assailing me alongside plans for my day. It’s a discomforting place, but also feels strangely valuable. It’s assuring to hear it described from the outside; it makes me feel less alone, and a little less scared of myself.

In the last several months, I’ve found it a useful framing to think of people as two entities: who we are to ourselves, and who we are to others, (the last bit definitely influenced by T.M. Scanlon’s “What We Owe to Each Other.”) I think most of us easily deal with the world by primarily responding to how it affects us, and we then act to make ourselves feel a certain way. 

The thing is, all of these actions will be moot when we die, and all their effect on the world will cease along with us. But the other actions, those taken to affect others, they will be the ones that last. As Mr. Nuovo, by way of Kant, points out, these are the actions that give us a taste of immortality. If we can each be thought of as two persons, one is extremely limited and will utterly cease. The other will certainly cause ripples of effect well past our deaths. It helps me to remember that. Thank you, Addy Indy and Mr. Nuovo for the inspiration.

Kris Diehl


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