In the disappointment of Paul Rudd, a philosophy for 2022 – the Forward

The most recent episode of “Saturday Night Live” revealed that Paul Rudd is not only the sexiest man alive in America in 2021, but also the smartest.

Rudd was to be inducted into the “5-Timers Club” – the lucky few who have hosted “SNL” five times. But with the Omicron variant sweeping through New York City, NBC announced shortly before curtain time that there would be no live audiences. Still, the show would go on.

And continue, but in a strange way. Featured by two other 5-Timers, Tom Hanks and Tina Fey, Rudd leapt onto a stage where rows of poinsettias had taken the place of the musicians. Greeted by a handful of applause from the reduced crew, Rudd swept the sea of ​​empty seats, displayed his characteristic smile – part of sparkle, part of bewilderment – and exclaimed, “I am extremely disappointed. “

Rarely have so few words captured so much of what so many people are feeling now.

Our use of deception comes from the Old French verb disappointing, which meant removing or canceling someone’s appointment from office. To his bigdeception, a royal courtier could discover, one fine morning, that he had been disappointed of his role at court. If the meaning of the word has become more subjective when it has crossed the Channel – “to frustrate its expectations or desires” – it nevertheless retains its original and objective meaning.

Omicron called off our collective date with what we thought was a healthier and happier New Year. We are, in every sense of the word, disappointed. Extremely disappointed.

In the extreme disappointment of Paul Rudd, a universal philosophy for 2022

Of course, the disappointment is relative. When Paul Rudd – who has gone from DJ bar mitzvah to Ant Man – says he’s disappointed, I can only shrug my shoulders in disbelief. I wouldn’t mind being the sexiest guy alive – I’d even settle for the sexiest guy dead – in America. I also wouldn’t mind being extremely disappointed as Tom Hanks and Tina Fey presented me with my own plush and purplish 5 Timer tuxedo jacket.

But what would countless others think if they heard me moan at my disappointment at having to cancel in-person classes next semester and teach on Zoom again? What would they say if they heard me swear I have to cut my workouts at the gym short? I may not be Paul Rudd, but my disappointment is the measure of my good and great fortune.

And yet, disappointment has become our collective default position. We are, like Paul Rudd, extremely disappointed. How not to be ? Despite the hopes raised by vaccines, the coronavirus still haunts our lives. Despite the expectations raised by Joe Biden’s victory, our government is still idling. Despite our relief at the loss of Donald Trump, his malevolent influence persists. And no matter how often we rub our eyes, we can’t read the news without seeing Joe Manchin’s face. It’s as if everything and nothing had changed since last winter.

Other than drinking a lot or sighing deeply, what should we do with this deep feeling of disappointment? Better yet, how should we think about it and how to react to it? We might find solace, maybe even a solution, in the work of Simon Critchley.

Professor of Philosophy at the New School of Social Research – As the first non-Jew in the Philosophy Department, the Englishman and theoretically Catholic Critchley proudly describes himself as the chabbas goy – he wrote a series of books on the causes and consequences of religious and political disappointments.

In the extreme disappointment of Paul Rudd, a universal philosophy for 2022

In his remarkable book “Very Little… Almost Nothing: Death, Philosophy, and Literature,” Critchley contests the idea – which dates back to ancient Greece – that philosophy was born out of wonder. Instead, we turn to philosophy when religious belief, which offers an otherworldly sense, and political belief, which emphasizes worldly justice, also prove to be bankrupt. We become philosophers not by gazing at the heavens in awe, but by realizing that the heavens are and always will be silent.

This is the intellectual and ethical situation that many of us find ourselves in now. In the face of the natural and man-made scourges we now face, our hopes for lasting meaning and lasting justice are little more than a hill of beans. But, Critchley argues, that is hardly grounds for resigning. We are called – or rather we must appeal to ourselves – to find meaning and demand justice in a world indifferent to each other.

In an interview several years ago, he suggested that there was something reinforcing about the loss of these beliefs. “There is something extremely exciting about being disappointed,” he said, “something extremely exhilarating about being disillusioned.” This perhaps explains the smile of Paul Rudd when he announces his extreme disappointment. The show couldn’t go on, the show was going on.

A professor at the University of Houston, Zaretsky is also a cultural columnist at The Forward. His new book, “Victory Never Last: Caregiving and Reading in a Time of Plague” will be published next April by the University of Chicago Press.