Moving into the unknown, with gusto

As we cling by our fingertips to the eaves of the old year, before we drop into the vast unknown of the new one, it is tradition to reflect on the past year, as the Review-Journal is doing today by offering our take on the Top Ten stories of 2008 in various categories, everything from sports to business, from concerts to news.

The purpose in this exercise is partly pure entertainment and nostalgia, but also a harkening to the admonishments of philosopher George Santayana in “Life of Reason.”

He is remembered for suggesting that we should not forget, but in the fuller context he wrote:

“Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. … In a moving world readaptation is the price of longevity. The hard shell, far from protecting the vital principle, condemns it to die down slowly and be gradually chilled; immortality in such a case must have been secured earlier, by giving birth to a generation plastic to the contemporary world and able to retain its lessons.”

While Santayana’s glass appears half empty, you might also say that remembering the good things that happened in the past better prepare us for making them happen again.

One of the first lessons that should be learned is from the top local news story of the year, as selected by our news reporting staff, the hepatitis C outbreak at a couple of local colonoscopy screening centers. While many will wring their hands and bemoan a lack of regulatory oversight and frequent inspections and various Nanny State solutions, I can’t help but wonder at the lack of alacrity in pursuing swift, conclusive and severe punishment against those who knowingly cut sanitary corners, playing a form of Russian Roulette with patients’ lives. There are definitely lessons to be learned here.

On the Business section front we find another object lesson that we keep learning but still repeating as the state’s economy tanked, leaving more than 8 percent jobless with little likelihood of a rapid turnaround in 2009.

The debate over whether to build coal-fired power plants near Ely is sure to heat up in the coming year even as we reach the end of one of the coolest years on record. Whither this much-touted global warming I keep reading about in all the politically correct newspapers that don’t seem to have an ounce of skepticism?

Enough of the doom and O.J. and falling casino stock prices and elections and drive-by shootings and budget woes. There were also basketball teams advancing in the NCAA tournament, race car drivers, boxers and baseballers, as well as concerts, movies, shows and dining out. Enough to keep up lively debate about which is best and “did the Review-Journal critic see the same show I did?” comments.

Maybe your New Year’s resolution will be to finally call and get tickets to “Jersey Boys” and see what all the buzz is about or check out just how foul-mouthed Bette Midler really is.

I’m curious about Heidi Knapp Rinella’s top rated restaurant, Louis’s Las Vegas. Maybe I’ll get the DVD for one of those movies Carol Cling recommends. “Wall-E,” really?

From the sublime to the mundane.

“Civilisation is cumulative,” Santayana wrote. “The farther it goes the intenser it is, substituting articulate interests for animal fumes and for enigmatic passions. Such articulate interests can be shared; and the infinite vistas they open up can be pursued for ever with the knowledge that a work long ago begun is being perfected and that an ideal is being embodied which need never be outworn.”

Now, on into 2009 with gusto. You’ll read it here first, of course.

Thomas Mitchell is the editor of the Review-Journal and writes about the role of the press and access to public information. He may be contacted at 383-0261 or via e-mail at tmitchell@reviewjournalc.com. Read his blog at lvrj.com/blogs/mitchell.

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