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  • Glenn Sonnenberg

Musings from the Bunker 9/18/20

Good morning and Happy (Jewish) New Year!

Tonight marks the beginning of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. By that calendar, the year 5781. Ordinarily, Jews around the world would enjoy their new year’s meal with family and friends and head to their synagogue for celebration, song, and community. This year, as with most things in 2020 will be different; we will be gathering around computer screens to enjoy services in the comfort of our own homes, together only with those with whom we live or have been COVID-tested.



Earlier this week I spoke about the passage of time—how the six months we’ve been through seem like ages. But as the days become months and the depths of our country’s failure to address the COVID crisis becomes increasingly apparent and frustrating, it iseems like this will be going on for a while longer. Then there are the horrific fires that have blanketed the Western states with ash and unhealthy air. And driving down most any street, it is painful to see so many boarded-up establishments, each of which represents a dream unrealized and jobs lost. Perhaps this series of calamities finally will cause us to awaken to the pressing need to change our behaviors so that catastrophic weather events and crises that can be foreseen can be—if not averted—at least reduced in number and effect.

A number of people commented on how much the lead singer in Looking Glass (“Brandy, You’re a Fine Girl”) had aged from the earlier version from 1971 to the acapella version this year. I have to remind people that the first version was 49 years ago. Things change. It seems the profound impact of time is accentuated by seeing rock stars age. After all, rock is by definition a gender of youthful angst, revolution, and exploration. Few are the rockers who make it into their 60s or 70s maintaining their original brash, defiant youth. For every seemingly timeless Gene Simmons or Mick Jagger or Paul McCartney, of whom we marvel at their resilience, there are countless others who peter out long before age takes its toll. So seeing a past rock star, frozen in our eyes in scratchy black-and-white, shirt unbuttoned to the navel, scraggly tresses, and bell bottomed, as a man in his late 70s, is jarring.

But time marches on. My parents always loved the song “Sunrise, Sunset” from Fiddler on the Roof, when Tevye and Golde sing of the passage of time when all of the sudden they saw their parents children became adults. From my vantage point today, I can see why it struck such a chord with them:



The last bit of contemplation of time comes from the Netflix show After Life. I finished the second six-episode season. It is funny, poignant, touching, raunchy, and haunting. Ricky Gervais’s contemplation of love, loss, grief and rebirth is one of my favorite current TV shows. Toward the end of the second season, a couple of seniors are sitting on a bench, speaking of the loss of their spouses. The man turns to the woman and says that he has learned the meaning of life: “it goes on.” And she responds, “Robert Frost.” Here’s what Frost said at his 80th birthday celebration:

“In three words, I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life. It goes on. In all the confusions of today, with all our troubles . . . with politicians and people slinging the word fear around, all of us become discouraged . . . tempted to say this is the end, the finish. But life — it goes on. It always has. It always will. Don’t forget that.”

And so it does. Life goes on—through grief, through trial, through pandemic, through fire—and as Kurt Vonegut said, so it goes…

The last year has been quite a year for the books. Let’s hope and pray that 5781—and 2021—will be a step toward peace, health, equanimity, understanding and better days—and out to restaurants and travel!

Shana tova,


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