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Proceed with what works for you

I received a lot of reader reaction to last Sunday’s column (“The Healing Power of Decency”). It appears I’m not the only one pondering its absence in our current world.

People had things to say, and there was an element of hopefulness and a spirit of “stand up and be counted” in those comments.

In that particular column, as I always seem to, I wrapped my personal reflections around those of other writers. One thoughtful reader educated me on the accurate date for the publication of Albert Camus’s “The Plague” (June 10, 1947). His comments prompted me to call up that book on my Kindle and begin to read it again. The harsh learning possible and its application to our current pandemic cannot be understated.

In these unsettled times, books can be a diversion and a refuge, even those that lay bare our societal underbelly. That said, I try to stay balanced. So I am also rereading “Anne of Green Gables” by Anne Shirley. As do other writers (Melissa Kirsch nytimes.com/newsletters), I heartily embrace one of the book’s questions: “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it?” Yes, it is.

That phrase could be a mantra of sorts we all consider typing in large bold letters, framing and hanging above our home computers. What I now have hanging above my computer are the words of actor and playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda: “Good Morning. Eyes Up. Hearts Up. Minds Sharp. Compassion on full blast. Okay. Let’s go.“

If you are not a reader of books on a regular basis or someone who gravitates to motivational sayings, entertaining diversion, and a refuge of sorts, can always be obtained through streaming video. In our household this past week, my husband and I watched “Golden Girls” and “Mary Tyler Moore” episodes almost every night in remembrance of Betty White (1923-2022) and the healing power of laughter.

But we are we switching to a Cary Grant retrospective. I think “Charade” (Dec. 5, 1963) has some application to our current times. And in the end, evil loses and goodness and decency live happily ever.

But it’s not just the movie that offers comfort, the Henry Mancini music in “Charade” is a balm of its own. Listening to Mancini’s music via a black dot sitting on our kitchen counter is today’s diversion. Alexa (the black dot) also turns off our lights when we ask her to, and she responds to questions such as, “What was the exact date Camus published ‘The Plague.’” It works for me.

I also get a certain perspective and a strange sort of solace from reading newspaper obituaries. The person died, yes, but his or her life is being acknowledged and remembered in the public square. In a really good obituary, stories are told. And your own life review is prompted. Sometimes, there is humor. The importance of humor cannot be understated either.

So my question becomes, what works for you? Take your time with answering that. Then proceed accordingly.

Sharon Johnson is a reader, writer and thinker. Reach her at sharjohn99@gmail.com.