“You have at least nine months. Perhaps as much as eighteen.”
“The first doctor gave me from one to two years.”
“I hope he’s right. What are you going to do?”
“Well, I have no family. I haven’t taken a day off since law school. I guess I’ll try to squeeze thirty years of living into one. Or two.”
Many people consider the 1950s to be “the golden age of television.” I just don’t see it.
It was the final decade in the golden age of radio, which started in the 1930s. But as far as I can tell, most 1950s television programs were pretty bad. Comedians Sid Caesar and Lucille Ball were wildly popular, but I’ve seen their clips and they don’t make me laugh. Toward the end of the decade, a few new shows got it right. “Perry Mason” became a long-time hit, and “The Rifleman” was so popular that foreign heads of state wanted to meet its star when they visited America.
Many of the better television programs were transplanted from radio, such as The Jack Benny Show, “Dragnet,” “Gunsmoke,” and “The Lone Ranger.” There were even political thrillers like a retitled version of “I Was a Communist for the FBI,” which was the 1950s counterpart of “I Was a Congresswoman for the Bronx.”
But for me, the golden age of television spanned the 1960s to the 1990s.
After fumbling around in the 1950s, Hollywood in the 1960s finally knew how to do television. Shows included “Star Trek,” “The Twilight Zone,” “The Fugitive,” and other series that were both entertaining and thought-provoking. In the 1970s, there were “M.A.S.H.,” “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” and “The Six-Million Dollar Man.” The 1980s had “The A-Team,” “Magnum P.I.,” and “Hill Street Blues.” The 1990s brought “Seinfeld,” “Quantum Leap,” more “Star Trek,” and a couple other shows near and dear to me.
Which brings us back to the 1960s, and the television series “Run for Your Life” (1965-68).
The main character, lawyer Paul Bryan, had a terminal illness. The clock was ticking. Each episode featured a death-defying adventure of some kind. When hoodlums pointed guns at him, he laughed in their faces. He knew he was going to die anyway.
Ironically, that knowledge freed him to live, because he lost his fear of death.
And if the first half of the year 2020 has a motto, it’s “Fear of Death.” It’s a motto that has not served us well.
Everyone must make his or her own decisions about life. Every sane adult has that right. Some people whom I deeply respect think that Covid-19 lockdowns should continue, and that we’re doing too much too fast. I think that a year from now, we’ll look back on these months as a time of madness, when lockdowns did more harm to our country and to us as individuals than Covid-19 could ever have done. But we’ll see. I have no crystal ball.
I wouldn’t advise anyone to act recklessly. But we shouldn’t spend our lives being afraid. That’s not living, it’s only existing. Rocks can do that. We are meant for better things.
Our lives are limited in time and space: we can’t change that fact. What we can change is how we use the time we’ve been given. We should live our lives to the fullest — looking for the joy and beauty of each day, doing good things, and sharing time with our loved ones.
And getting haircuts. That’s definitely on my list.
Check out my book Why Sane People Believe Crazy Things: How Belief Can Help or Hurt Social Peace. Kirkus Reviews called it an “impressively nuanced analysis.”