Modern Times

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In these dark and anxious times, Richard Friedlander is struggling with the old goal of how to live in the world, without being of it.

Some things change for the good, some for the bad; sometimes we think something has changed when it hasn’t. Who we are at heart, however, doesn’t change.

Time was when I read newspapers or watched television news for facts and the opinions of intelligent people with no horse in the race. Who didn’t try to convince me they were right, but just got me to think. Who convinced me that the news that was printed actually was fit for my consumption. No matter that may be a myth. We need a past to look up to if we’re to have faith in the future.

Now I search the morning paper for some meaningless article that will entertain me without threatening world-wide or personal peace. Like whether the Boston Celtics of 1985-86 could have taken down Your Golden State Warriors. An amusing speculation with nothing at stake. A relief from the rest of the news, including my favorite columnists, whose integrity I have begun to mistrust because they agree with me.

Reading is an active experience, whereas other than aiming the remote, television comes to us. Even the best of the nightly news gives  us a predictable, prurient litany of devastating natural disasters, political fiascos, deadly accidents and soul-chilling abuse of one kind of another. In a word, demoralizing. It is not surprising, therefore, that my favorite programs are “Poldark” and “The Durrells of Corfu”: both well-written, beautifully acted series about credible people in a timeless past, whose bumbling but earnest humanity I fervently want to relate to; shows that give me people to pull for without worrying how it will affect an election or throw the world or me into turmoil. If this be escapism, then play on. Some would even call me irresponsible.


Nearly 400 years have passed since William Bradford led his Pilgrims to America in search of a religious freedom they withheld from others. He said in his diary that what he constantly sought was “how to live in the world without being of it." That conundrum has not changed. But he had the New World to go to. We don’t.

With a Perspective, I’m Richard Friedlander.

Richard Friedlander is a mediator and actor. He lives in the East Bay.