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    ‘This … Is 20/20’

    By Dr. Tim Seelig–

    Since 1978, the words “this is 20/20” have been repeated weekly by a host of trusted household names: Hugh Downs, Barbara Walters, Diane Sawyer, Charles Gibson, Sam Donaldson, Connie Chung, John Stossel, Elizabeth Vargas, and Chris Cuomo. That is quite a list. They are the news anchors people completely trusted when they reported worldwide happenings.

    That’s certainly television of the past. It appeared on one of the three major networks. What? Three? Not on Netflix? Forget it! Many have. But many of us haven’t. Not only are the three big networks struggling to compete against too many options, but there has been a war on news in general. Once upon a time, in a land very far away, we believed what a news anchor said. They actually said exactly the same thing on all three channels. That confirmed it to be the truth. We trusted Hugh and Barbara and the others. Now, if you don’t like what you hear, you can switch channels and hear the exact opposite “news” coming from the anchors. News is most definitely no longer news.

    Leading up to New Year’s at the dawning of 2019, I wrote an article for the San Francisco Bay Times. Oh, my. And I quote:

    We have now “turned the page” on 2018. For many, it was with great relief and couldn’t come soon enough.   I’m in that camp. For some, the year’s page was turned with happiness, closing a chapter on a stellar year.        Some hesitantly turned the page with trepidation of the unknown. Regardless, time is something we cannot   control. We aren’t given the option of, “No, thanks, I’ll just stay in 2018 a little longer.” 2019 is here!

    Father Time continued his steady march throughout the last year. He’s not a pretty vision with his long beard, crumpled robe and carrying an hourglass representing time’s constant one-way movement. It’s a bit    frightening when he grabs his scythe to kill off the last year! In his final act, he hands the new year over to a bouncing baby, who doesn’t have a clue what to do with the year ahead.

    Shut the front door! What? Father Time has the scythe to kill off a year? Any nominations from the floor on what year to sacrifice to the old fella? I hear 2020. Are there any other nominations? Crickets. Hearing none, all in favor of leading 2020 up the steps to the gallows, say “Aye.” Hearing no objections, the motion passes. Bye, Felicia, 2020!

    Ah, were it that easy … . Let’s be honest. Hindsight is 20/20 and the view from the rearview mirror just sucks.

    We can no longer take our minds off the tragic circumstances in our usual way: concerts, shows, movie theater, ballet, social gathering places. And we have Zoom fatigue. What’s one to do?

    Here’s an idea: grab a book!! Take refuge in the printed word. Lose yourself in its pages. Allow it to take you on a journey—inside or out. What’s your very favorite kind of book? Action and adventure? Or maybe Classics, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Horror, or Comics? Oh, so many choices.

    What if 2020 were actually a book? It would be a very long book. In what genre would you place it? OK, everyone cannot choose Horror. There are already countless books being written about 2020. Avoid them like the plague! Ouch, that’s a phrase no longer appropriate! Too soon.

    If life is truly just a book, thank you, Jesus, that we’ve started “2021, The Book.” It was a real page-turner/barnburner.

    Back to “2020, The Book,” what a book it was! It will never ever be compared to the Good Book. Except for the special treats God apparently had up his sleeve for the pinnacle of his creation—us! You know, water turned into blood (where was that water into wine story?), frogs, lice, gnats, and locusts (sounds like the boy scout summer camp I refused to attend), boils (gross), and pestilence. Yup. There it is! “A fatal epidemic disease.” Do I think God sent COVID because of the bad thing the gays keep doing, like getting married? Uh, no. We may have been bad (electing Donald Trump), but not that bad. Surely.

    Back to books. If we’d been able to read the back-cover synopsis, we would have never bought the book. But it doesn’t work that way. In fact, we have to not just read the book but live it before the synopsis can be written. It used to be so fun, when we read books with spines and paper. There was a comforting smell to reading older books. And a different smell to brand new books.

    Now, for the most part, it’s just swipe or tap. It’s just not the same. I have turned to reading on a screen rather than a book made of natural resources. I swear the fonts in books are getting smaller—probably to save paper. No matter how hard I pinched and spread two fingers trying to zoom in on my paper books, the font didn’t get bigger! So, the printing industry forced me to switch due to the cost-cutting.

    Have you ever just stopped a few chapters in—or maybe 1/3—and, instead of turning the page, just turned it in to the half-price bookstore to see if it might be someone else’s cup of tea? Or, in the old days, for fire starter, lining a bird cage, or training a puppy? Well, this last chapter would have been better off with any of those three.

    There were lots of chapters. There were some big sub-sections. Three come to mind: Trump, COVID-19, and Black Lives Matter. There were many, many chapters under each sub-heading. Books in and of themselves.

    Of course, we all love journals. Empty books where we get to write our own story or stories. Sadly enough, most of our journals couldn’t avoid the three aforementioned chapters.

    You know those trick candles that, when you blow, they won’t blow out? The chapter titled “Donald” is like that.

    In November, we thought we had finished that chapter. We put that book aside in November. Surprise. Lo and behold it opens itself like some spell on Bewitched.

    Some of us actually threw the book away and, like a scene from It, the book rose from the trash, or gutter, with a scary clown face (Donald’s) and hunted us down crying, “You’re not done with me! I’ll show you and your little dog, too!”

    I have lived the ups and downs of life always with humor, most of the time putting things in their proper perspective and moving forward. And, I’ve always had live music to create with choirs all over the place—in addition to my “family,” SFGMC. Singing is healing. Singing with others is the thing of legend. It breaks down all the barriers and allows one to completely immerse one’s self into the beautiful river of sound, adding your part to the whole. That’s gone for now. It is one of the hardest things about this pandemic.

    Why couldn’t we have had locusts?

    Here we are, 2021. Everyone or almost everyone is more than ready to write a new book and put the old one to bed in one of the methods described above—kindling, bird cage, puppy pad.

    Here is my New Year’s wish. I hope we can shed the hurt. I hope we can find forgiveness in our hearts. And, I hope we will be singing together long before “2022, The Book” begins to be written.

    Find a book you love. Write one yourself. Find a song you love. Sing along. Find someone you love and randomly Zoom them to tell them!

    Happy 2021!

    P.S. Back in 2018, I quoted a song lyric by Bay Area Troubadour, Bobby Jo Valentine. It is even more poignant two years later. Here is a brief excerpt:

    Something You Happen To

    december 31st, pull up the shiny hearse
    put in the old year, break the reverse gear
    the past pulls out your driveway, forever out of reach
    the future is a highway
    growing beneath our feet
    forever incomplete
    always awakening
    so, let the new year grow, take it sure and slow
    never look back except to learn or laugh
    wounds are our greatest teachers, scars are our strangest strength
    hold your hurt hand high, wave a good goodbye
    the dawn only breaks after the old day dies
    time moves us ever forward into the mystery
    and every moment changes based on the way we move,
    life isn’t just what happens … it’s something you happen to

    Dr. Tim Seelig is the Artistic Director of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus.

    Published on December 17, 2020