SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 13, 2022
...we recalled what a teenager knew: We had a plan for yesterday's DAILY HOWLER—but then, we encountered the front page of yesterday's New York Times.
On that front pager, we encountered "Sarah Cuauro, just 6 years old." Our day largely ended here, headline included:
A Girl Loses Her Mother in the Jungle, and a Migrant Dream Dies
DARIÉN GAP, Panama—In the darkness, the little girl called out for her mother, her tiny form lit by the moon.
The two had left their home in Venezuela a week before, bound for the United States. To get there, though, they would have to cross a brutal jungle called the Darién.
And in the chaos of the trek, the child had lost her only parent.
To contain her fear, Sarah Cuauro, just 6 years old, began to sing.
As if that wasn't enough, Times reporter Julie Turkewitz reported the contents of this little girl's song:
“The glory of God, giant and sacred,” she croaked through tears. “He carries me in his arms.”
If we're prepared to believe this report, that was this little girl's song.
Our day largely ended right there. That said, Turkewitz's front-page report reminded us of a conversation we had long ago—a conversation we've been recalling, with appreciation and with regret, a great deal in recent months.
First, all praise for Turkewitz and for Federico Rios, the photographer for that front-page report! At one point, Turkewitz explained how the New York Times was able to report the plight of this 6-year-old child:
To understand the journey so many are taking, two New York Times journalists crossed the 70-mile Darién route in September and October, interviewing migrants, guides, law enforcement, community leaders and aid workers.
The painful fruits of that commitment are found in Turkewitz' report and in Rios' photographs. For the record, we hasten to tell you this:
After three days of separation, Sarah Cuauro, just 6 years old, was reunited with her mother. For those three days, the little girl—in effect, she'd been adopted by a Samaritan—had continued to struggle toward the north, not knowing if her mother was dead or alive.
As it turned out, her mother was still alive. Eventually, mother and child decided they would have to return to Venezuela.
After reading Turkewitz's report, our day largely came to an end. We're always astonished by people like Turkewitz, who go to such remarkable lengths to report on the experiences of the wretched of the earth.
In the face of that report, we thought again about the conversation we had—the conversation we had when we were seventeen years old, in the spring of our senior year in high school, beneath the fragrant eucalyptus trees, before the late 60s hit.
That spring—it would have been April or May of 1965—we fell, unexpectedly, head over heels in love! Emotionally, we were unprepared for the experience, but we talked and talked, and talked and talked, with the (wiser) junior in high school we were suddenly coming to know.
The gods must have favored us to let us meet this person. But out of all those hours of conversation—after school for hours and hours, then for hours and hours some evenings—we can only remember one specific exchange.
That exchange involved a person's responsibility to the wretched of the earth. The undesirable question at issue was this:
If you know that people are sick and dying around the world, don't you have a responsibility to try to act?
That was the question we presented. It was based upon things we had read about Dr. Tom Dooley, a medical missionary who had become sick, and had died, in southeast Asia.
Didn't you have a responsibility to act? Even if you'd prefer that the cup be taken from your lips?
Our friend said the answer was basically no. "It just isn't like that," she said.
Without any question, our friend was right, but then again, we were right too. Amazingly, that's the only specific exchange we can recall from those hours and hours, and hours and hours, of conversation that summer and spring.
The gods must have favored us at that time to let us interact with so wise a young person. (We'll guess that she'd drawn more "emotional intelligence" from her home than we'd been exposed to in ours.)
Yesterday morning, we thought about that conversation, as we've been doing lately. As we'd read about Sarah Cuauro, our day had pretty much come to an end.
The denouement goes like this:
In September of that year, we started our freshman year at Harvard College. In the introductory philosophy course—Phil 3, "Problems in Philosophy"—we were exposed to the unintentional humor of this "philosophical problem:"
How do you knw that 7 plus 5 equals 12?
We've told this story in greater detail at this site. On balance, though, we regard that as a spectacular instance of "found humor."
Several freshmen, including us, abandoned their intention to major in philosophy after learning what the "problems" of academic philosophy apparently turned out to be.
(As the semester proceeded, applause at the end of each lecture diminished, then stopped altogether. Within five years, the thoroughly decent young professor had risen to major prominence within the cosseted world of academic philosophy.)
We returned to the philosophy major after sophomore year. By the end of our senior year, we'd been exposed to the later Wittgenstein's (extremely jumbled) implied critique of the comical bungles which constitute the canon of traditional academic philosophy.
For Professor Horwich's account of that matter, you can just click here. Our question from high school remains:
If you know that the wretched of the earth are becoming sick and dying, do you have an obligation to act?
No professor ever raised that question in our years at that well-known college.
We've never told the comical if embarrassing story of what happened at the end of our freshman seminar, Theory of Emotions. The seminar was conducted by a very nice person who was a psychology professor.
In that instance, we freshmen were given a glimpse of what academic psychology is. Back to the unintentionally humorous problems of alleged philosophy:
In a wonderful bit of found humor, we can still picture our teaching assistant, NAME WITHHELD, tearing his hair as he stared out a third-floor window of Emerson Hall. He was tortured by the question of how he could possibly know that 7 plus 5 equals 12.
Don't jump, Mr. N, we wanted to shout. Things aren't really all that bad, at least not in Emerson Hall!
In our view, Turkewitz and Rios take the prize today. We'll also mention this:
Yesterday morning, the Washington Post of Jeff Bezos was selling you questions, concerns and problems like the ones listed below.
On the front page of the online Post, these reports all took substantial priority over the placement of a certain front-page report from yesterday's print editions:
Ask Amy: I don’t go by my birth name, but my sister-in-law won’t stop using it
Miss Manners: Aspiring-influencer friend is plagiarizing my posts
Host your first dinner party in style with these basic supplies
A dog shower might be the most practical home upgrade luxury
How to create a logical spot for your television
Your toilet could harbor salmonella, staph and E. coli. Here’s how to clean it better.
Johns and Jons are about to make up 10 percent of the U.S. Senate
I mask at the gym. It’s the smart thing to do. Why do I feel so dumb?
Date Lab: He guessed that she’s ‘totally an introvert’
Sarah Cuauro is six years old. That's the dreck Bezos keeps selling.
On the front page of yesterday's online Post, all that bullshit was given priority over this other report:
‘Everyone has to act,’ Biden tells COP27, as developing nations slam U.S.
That other report appeared on the front page of yesterday's print editions. It concerned Biden's statements regarding climate change, which is going to work its will on the Sarah Cuauros of the earth.
We strongly recommend Julie Turkewitz's astounding front-page report. Also, Federico Rios' photographs of the world's most beautiful child.
To the world's teenagers, we recommend this:
Persist in the painful things you know. The things you know will persist!