David Bouchier

Courtesy of Pixabay

NPR’s Weekend Edition on this station has a segment called "Barbershop,” on which invited guests can openly discuss any subject in the news. Not in my barbershop you can’t. My barber has strong opinions. With the big voice of Fox News shouting from a screen over our heads, he tells me what I need to know, but evidently don’t, about foreign policy, economics, the complexities of social class and race, the nature of democracy and government, and just about any other topic that comes up. I’ve learned to keep quiet.

Steven Senne / AP

As we navigate the dreaded pre-summer season of tests, exams, and the breathless wait for results, students from kindergarten to university are facing the challenge of their lives. They don’t like it, and nor do their parents, thousands of whom have withdrawn their children from standardized testing so as to avoid this trauma.

Those of us who never had a proper education in science are reminded of our ignorance every time we switch on a computer, or a microwave, or even a light bulb. It might as well be magic, but it’s not, and we have no more idea how these tricks are accomplished than we understand the flying broomsticks in Harry Potter. Satellites spin in the sky above our heads, we get miraculous drugs from the local pharmacy, and make calls on phones that don’t seem to be connected to anything, and we don’t understand how any of it works.

Every occupation, profession, interest group and cult in the nation, from grocery wholesalers to transcendental meditators, feels the need to hold an annual conference. Doctors and lawyers have the most luxurious get-togethers, in plush resorts in delightful countries at the best times of year. Small non-profit organizations end up holding their conferences in Phoenix in August, when hotel rooms are virtually free.

The desire to make things clean and tidy in the springtime seems to be an almost biological urge. Like most biological urges, it should be resisted. Spring may be the season of renewal and new beginnings, but there’s no point in going mad about it. The energy and optimism we feel at this time of year shouldn’t be wasted on dull domestic tasks.

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