The Golden Mean


Matthew Broder, Editor

Horace, a Roman poet during the time of Augustus and giver of sayings like “carpe diem” and “sapere aude”, is most well-known for his Odes, a collection of poems in four books that deals with subjects like love, friendship, religion, morality, and patriotism. The tenth poem of Book Two, fittingly named The Golden Mean, explores the idea of living in moderation. Addressed to a fictional Licinius, it begins, “You will live a happier life, Licinius, by neither steering always for the deep sea nor, in cautious dread of storms, by hugging too close to a dangerous shore.”

           Horace has described exactly the predicament America is in right now. We’re entering our third calendar year of Covid. We all want it to be over with. Promisingly, stores and restaurants and other public places are opening back up to full capacity. But the threat of the new Omicron variant, the most mutated variant to date, still looms over us. Right now, we as a nation face a choice. Do we hug too close to the rocky shore of increasing restrictions in fear of the storms that lie in the other direction? Or do we continue the direction in which we as a nation have been heading and give our sails to the wind?

            For as much as the media hyped it up, we really don’t know a whole lot about the Omicron variant. Preliminary testing has shown that it is probably more contagious than the Delta variant responsible for the massive surge in cases we saw this fall, but that’s the extent of our knowledge. Whether it’s more deadly remains to be seen. Unfortunately, it seems the best course of action is to continue what we’ve been doing for nearly two years now: masking and social distancing.

            But is that really what this country needs right now? Is staying close to the shore really our best course of action? I don’t think so. Further restrictions are just going to further demoralize our already demoralized nation. Nobody wants this to go on. The pandemic has tested our resolve as a nation more so than nearly anything else in our history. And right now, I don’t know how much longer it can hold out. We need something, anything, to get us out of the rut we’re in.

            But we need to be careful. If the past two years have taught us anything, it’s that we can never let our guard down. I think it’s important that we celebrate the holidays together. We’ve gotten to a point where the risk of doing so isn’t necessarily negligible, but manageable, far more manageable than it was at this time last year. We’re close to putting this all behind us, so very close, but we’re not there yet. We can’t celebrate the victory before it’s won. We can’t set our course directly into open waters, no matter how tempting it may be. It’s the golden mean we’re searching for. We’ll lead a happier, not to mention healthier, life by aiming there.

            How we do that, I don’t know. I think that’ll be one of our biggest concerns as a nation in the coming year. How can we live like we once did while still being safe? Regardless, I hope all of you have a very merry and healthy Christmas!