Editor’s Notebook: Cortland apples, afternoon sun, and ‘Ted Lasso’
Rows of Cortland apple trees stretch toward the horizon at Carter Hill Orchard in Concord. (Dana Womald | New Hampshire Bulletin)
Like many of you, I’ve embraced every scrap of comfort and joy I can find during this long stretch of hard times. It’s not yet October, and I’ve made more trips to Carter Hill Orchard for Cortland apples, cider donuts, and mums than the last several years combined. On weekend afternoons, I’ve discovered the simple bliss of setting up a chair between the barn and river to soak up the last bits of sunshine before the yard falls into shadow – and so much the better if I happen to be sipping a local IPA called Misguided Angel. And more and more often I find myself drawn to novels, movies, and TV shows that aren’t so much action-packed as kindness-packed.
Amid so much that is bad, I crave goodness.
To that end, on Sunday night I watched the latest episode of “Ted Lasso” – a hearty comedy on Apple TV that, like everything else 2021 gets its paws on, has somehow managed to become polarizing. For the most part, it’s a sweet show about sweet people who are struggling with pain, fear, and grief like most of us, but that universal premise hasn’t kept the online commentariat from reaching for their torches and pitchforks. Popularity and popular backlash go hand in hand in the internet age, and ours is a nation packed with eager arbiters of comeuppance.
Philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell weighed in on what we now call “the haters” more than 90 years ago in the stiff language of the era. A person who likes strawberries, he writes, is in no way superior to a person who doesn’t, but he does have “a pleasure which the other does not have; to that extent his life is more enjoyable and he is better adapted to the world in which both must live.”
For that reason, I’m glad to have the apples, early afternoons in the yard, and “Ted Lasso.” Strawberries, too, now that I think of it. These scraps of comfort and joy, flawed as they might be, when stitched together are not only protective but healing. Even now, when the gloom feels suffocatingly thick.
So, as I mentioned, on Sunday night I watched the most recent installment of “Ted Lasso.” As much as Season 2, Episode 10 – “No Weddings and a Funeral” – contributes significantly to the narrative arc of the series, it also serves as a standalone story about mothers and daughters and fathers and sons, and the choices available to all of us as we navigate the pain of living. In one scene near the climax of the episode, soccer team owner Rebecca Welton (played by Hannah Waddingham) asks her newly widowed mother why she’s so maddeningly kind toward unkind people.
“When all is said and done,” she answers, “what’s more important: being loving or being right?”
It’s not a revolutionary sentiment, I know, but the line is delivered quietly and tenderly – almost as a prayer – and in truth demands a response from the audience as much as the actors. The older I get, and the more challenging the days become, the more I see the urgency of the question and the clarity of the answer. Even when the world seems beyond salvation, each of us retains the choice of how we move within it. And it’s not a choice we make once by way of declaration but repeatedly, with every exhalation and interaction.
In “The Rebel,” Albert Camus writes that it’s our duty to master in ourselves “all that should be mastered” and “rectify in creation everything that can be rectified.” But he also understood deeply the Sisyphean nature of the task, writing that even in a perfect world children will still die unjustly. “Even by his greatest effort man can only propose to diminish arithmetically the sufferings of the world,” Camus writes. “But the injustice and the suffering of the world remain and, no matter how limited they are, they will not cease to be an outrage.”
I think about that passage often, especially when the suffering of those near and far appears overwhelming, as it has for so long now. And I ask questions: How are we to exist in a world that so often and in so many ways feels irrevocably broken? How are we to live amid so much cruelty and indifference? How are we to move in time and space when the divide is so fundamental? How are we, any of us, to “diminish arithmetically the sufferings of the world”?
Since Sunday night, I find myself wondering whether those questions can be answered with another: “When all is said and done, what’s more important: being loving or being right?”
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