In the four paragraphs below,
Shepherd musing, December 22, 1964.
Comments made toward the end of a broadcast.
(Every so often we get a straight piece of Shep-philosophy–
this idea he’s presented before, so he obviously feels
that it is a constant for him–but is it?)
It’s a rarefied world. It gets more fun by the instant. You know, a lot of people–funny how many people will write–this is by the way, I suppose, a personal comment. How many people will write and will somehow imply, because you comment on things–you know–that are happening in the world–you are necessarily angry. They really will. And I think you’ll agree, Skip [his engineer that night], that I’m one of the least angry men around this station.
I think that the world is far more amusing than it is irritating. I think it’s far more funny than it is tragic. That is, personally–to me. I’ve always felt a little sorry for people who see the world as a tragic place. Who see the world as a serious, unhappy thing. To me, the more ridiculous we get, the more–the paradoxes pile one on top of the other, the more the–I suppose you say–the tragedy gets more poignant and the comedy gets funnier, the more amusing I find this fantastic potpourri.
I could not imagine a world duller than one in which it’s all straightened out–in which everybody thinks good thoughts, where there’s nothing but love, there’s nothing but beauty, nothing but truth, nothing but sensitivity, loveliness, and joy forever. Oh, forever and ever and ever. Oh, what a drag.
You now what you do? Within ten seconds after you arrive in such a paradise, you start lying like a nut–just to get some excitement going. I’m sure of it! After four eons of this kind of paradisiacal pap you’d have to hit somebody on the mouth: “Ah, it’s heaven, is it, Charlie? Well, they never figured on this, did they?” Pow! Right in the mouth. Now what are you going to do? You’re waiting for the action to begin. Believe me, it would begin. Like a vast crock of root beer.
Shepherd’s musical theme, in all its pompous, self-important bombast,
insinuates itself toward the end of this comic, philosophical excursion.
His idea here is certainly a fairly constant underlying current
in much–but not all-of his forays into mankind’s
foibles and futilities.
recognizes that “brouhaha,”
a word that would have fit right into the foregoing
discourse, a word describing turmoil and struggle, is
itself a funny-sounding word, ending in a self-nullifying chortle: “haha.”
That broadcast was made only a year after President Kennedy was assassinated,
an event that strongly moved Shepherd. Only a couple of years later came
the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy.
Not long after came a horrific series of mass murders
in this country.
Would Shepherd still have made the statement
that life was so
Would he have,
had he lived
Two of my close friends were great enthusiasts for the city of New York,
as was Shepherd.
The only good thing about their deaths was that each died
a relatively short time before September 11, 2001.
They were spared having to experience
that terrible event of
smoke, fire, death, and destruction.
We all have our defense mechanisms. They help keep us relatively sane and on a relatively, socially acceptable, course. In the Shep’s philosophy chapter of my EXCELSIOR, YOU FATHEAD! I quote him as having said, “I’m only going through this life as an observer. I have no desire to influence or change anything.” I quote Whitman’s “Song of Myself” where he wrote, “Apart from the pulling and hauling stands what I am,/…Both in and out of the game, and watching and wondering at it.” We know that on occasion Shepherd’s usually hidden emotions emerged. Wife Lois Nettleton commented in an interview regarding JFK’s assassination, “The three of us watched that whole thing and Jean was absolutely absorbed. We even went down, walked around, went over to St. Patrick’s and saw all the people sitting on the steps and everything. And he was—he had a very emotional side—very strong feelings, but I think you have to know that if you know his work.”
Mostly–maybe self-defensively– he kept that hidden.