"Every cloud has a silver lining," says the optimist. It follows naturally, then, that the pessimist must favor "looking for the rusty lining". Just as the optimist can always find reasons for hoping that bad situations can improve, so the best pessimist can always find that in every situation here is something you can worry about. In the essay, the author, a self-proclaimed pessimist, claims to be worried about being swallowed by things from outer space and about much else besides. He certainly seems to be what is known as "a born worrier", though how serious he is about it all you can judge for yourself.
LOOK FOR THE RUSTY LINING
My grandfather's hobby was worrying, and although hobbies are not usually thought of as being inheritable, I am a talented worrier, too. My grandfather's glum genes, which skipped my merry father, have reflowered in me as a major, all-purpose anxiety. A few weeks ago, for example, I learned that collapsing stars called black holes may soon such up all the matter in the universe. Because I read this in Vogue, I hoped at first that the black holes were some kind of fad -- a celestial pop event like Kohoutek or UFOs -- but then I saw that the author of the article had been twice a visiting member at the Institute for Advanced Study, in Princeton, and I knew that another crisis was at hand. Ominously, the Institute is just down the street from where I do my worrying.
The end of the universe should have been a splendid challenge for a gifted worrier like me, but mostly it upset me in a new and worrisome way, because it made me realize that I was spread too thin. When I found the black-hole story, I hadn't nearly come to the end of an earlier wonderful worry of mine about the polar ice cap melting and raising the level of the Atlantic Ocean enough to submerge the entire East Coast. I had been thinking of moving my family to Saskatchewan, but now that I was falling behind in my worrying, I had to worry if Saskatchewan might be tastier for a black hole than Princeton. On the other hand, Princeton was closer to those African killer bees that have been inexorably moving north from Brazil -- the ones that made me decide not to visit Central America last winter. The bees are getting very close to Central America, and Panama may be the only place where there is a chance to turn them back. Of course, even if it had only butterflies, Panama would still be a worrisome vacation spot for me, because it is said to be riddled with as much anti-American feeling as Boston.
In these terrible days, I often think of my grandfather, who was a nervous wreck in a simpler and happier time. His worries were transient and nicely manageable: When would Mel Ott start hitting again? When would Eleanor Roosevelt collapse from too much traveling around? When would the Third Avenue "L" rust away? I miss him, but he is lucky not to be alive and worrying today. I don't think he could have handled all the terrors that keep testing my sanity; he might even have surrendered and become an optimist, thus forfeiting the hobby he loved.
He was my inspiration when I was a boy -- a worrier to look up to. He used to visit me in my room, where he would examine my homework and then shake his head and say, "You'll never get through medical school with spelling like this."
"But these are band-new words," I would tell him in a worried way. "Spelling is harder this year than it was in the second grade."
He would sigh and say, "I don't know. I'm not even sure you should be a doctor at all. I just read that they have the highest rate for dropping dead."
My grandfather's quaint worries about me and Mel Ott and Eleanor Roosevelt are enough to make a contemporary worrier weep with envy. I wonder what he would have done if he had read a recent prediction by Gunnar Myrdal that the American economy could utterly collapse within five years -- just before the Eastern tidal wave but shortly after the arrival of the bees. Probably he would have adopted something like my own advanced worrying posture and learned to make room for each new worry by letting it trump one of the old ones. For example, when I read about the inundation of the East I forgot about my overdue Bloomingdale's bill; when I read Gunnar Myrdal's warning I decided to stop worrying about what would happen if Connecticut ever ran out of antiques. When I heard about the bees I eased off my worry about a root canal of mine and let the Panama Canal replace it on the Top Twenty.
What a list! Something old and something new, something cosmic yet something trivial too, for the creative worrier must forever blend the pedestrian with the immemorial. If the sun burns out, will the Mets be able to play their entire schedule at night? If cryogenically frozen human beings are ever revived, will they have to re-register to vote? And if the little toe disappears, will field goals play a smaller part in the National Football League?
Actually, I've never had a worry as worrisome as the universe-destroying black holes. I mean, the universe is where I do all my worrying, and if it suddenly disappears I may not be able to relocate. My only hope comes from a first principle of worry that I have learned in a lifetime of anxiety; i.e., some of the biggest problems are half of a self-cancelling pair. A nice example is that dreaded polar ice cap, which some scientists say isn't starting to melt at all but instead will shortly begin to enlarge rapidly, giving birth to a new ice age that soon will cover the entire United States. I worried about this ice layer form last February 9th until about Labor Day, by which time my worry about the price of bottom round had reduced it to the size of a rink. Lately, however, I have turned my mind back to the ice again, and I have been worrying about the fact that you cannot have ice that is growing and melting at the same time. One of these terrors is a dud, and the job of the dedicated worrier is to find out which one it is.
Applying this principle to the black holes, I wonder if there may not be some white holes in space as well -- pretty, glowing things that won't digest a universe but may prefer to spit it out again. All I need is a new flash from the Institute about one of these, and then perhaps I will be able to start worrying about chinch bugs and the male menopause and all the other gentle terrors my grandfather could endorse.
Is that the right way to spell "chinch bugs"?
a. covered with rust, rusted 生锈的
n. the inner surface of sth. 衬里
a. sad, gloomy
n. a tiny unit of a plant or animal cell that determines a characteristic that will be passed onto the offspring of the parent 基因
vi. flower again; (fig.) be at one's or its best once more
n. the popular fashion or custom at a certain time
n. (infml) an intense but short-lived fashion
a. of the sky or heaven
ad. of bad omen; unfavorably, threateningly
a. which troubles one or makes one anxious
v. (to cause) to go under the surface of water
ad. in a relentless way; unyieldingly 毫不宽容地
vt. make many holes in
n. a destroyed or much injured ship; (fig.) a person who has lost his health or money
a. strange or odd in an interesting, pleasing, or amusing way
a. lasting for only short time; quickly passing
n. a felling of enthusiasm and encouragement one get from sb. or sth. that give new ideas and the desire to create 灵感
n. a way of behaving or thinking on a particular occasion; attitude
vt. take (a trick or card of another suit) with a trump; (fig.) be better than; surpass
n. the act or fact of overflowing; flood 泛滥；洪水
n. a person who goes on foot; walker
a. (fig.) without imagination; dull, slow, commonplace
a. originating in the distant past, ancient
ad. by using very low temperatures
n. a sheet of ice for skating 溜冰场
n. a shell or bomb that fails to explode; (sl.) a failure
vt. eject or discharge (sth.) from the mouth 吐出
n. a short new announcement concerning a new event
n. a black-and-white tropical American insect that does much damage to wheat, corn, grass and other plants in dry weather 麦虱
n. the period during which a woman's menstrual cycle ends, normally occurring at an age of 45 to 50 绝经期
vt. give public approval of; support greatly
Phrases & Expressions
draw liquids etc. up a tube by making a vacuum at its upper end
but on the other hand; but at the same time
coming soon; almost here; nearby
cause to go back
look up to
admire; regard with respect
be successful in; manage to do, complete, etc.
make room for
provide space for
run out of
do with less severity or intensity; become less severe
use up its fuel
play a part
do a share; have an effect on
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