He was treated in a veterans' hospital near Lake Placid, and was given shock treatments and released. He married his fiancée, finished his education, and was set up in business in Ilium by his father-in-law. Ilium is a particularly good city for optometrists because the General Forge and Foundry Company is there. Every employee is required to own a pair of safety glasses, and to wear them in areas where manufacturing is going on. GF&F has sixty-eight thousand employees in Ilium. That calls for a lot of lenses and a lot of frames.
Frames are where the money is.
Bill became rich. He had two children, Barbara and Robert. In time, his daughter Barbara married another optometrist., and Billy set him up in business. Billy's son Robert had a lot of trouble in high school, but then he joined the famous Green Berets. He straightened out, became a fine young man, and he fought in Vietnam.
Early in 1968, a group of optometrists, with Billy among them, chartered an airplane to fly them from Ilium to an international convention of optometrists in Montreal. The plane crashed on top of Sugarbush Mountain, in Vermont. Everybody was killed but Billy. So it goes.
While Billy was recuperating in a hospital in Vermont, his wife died accidentally of carbon-monoxide poisoning. So it goes.
This little synopsis of Billy Pilgrim's life can be a little frightening. It emphasizes the randomness of tragedy, of which Billy seems to have more than his fair share. A nervous breakdown, Vietnam, airplane crash, carbon monoxide.That's quite the laundry list of catastrophe. Nobody would blame Billy if he just shut the windows in his house, closed the curtains, and stayed in bed all day.
Well, that's one way of looking at it. Examining the paragraph differently: Billy is a successful optometrist, rich and popular; he survives an airplane crash that killed every other passenger; Billy's son does not die in Vietnam--he's a "fine young man"; Billy does not die accidentally of carbon monoxide poisoning with his wife. So, in reality, Billy Pilgrim is a pretty lucky bastard.
Again, it's all a matter of perspective. Billy can choose to live in despair or gratitude. If I was Billy, I'm not sure which option I would select. But I am NOT Billy Pilgrim. I haven't had a nervous breakdown (yet). My son is too young to serve in a war zone. I don't plan on taking any plane trips in the near future, and I don't think I have to worry about carbon monoxide in my house. I have chosen to make 2017 a year of gratitude. So it goes.
I think the world would be a much better place if viewed with eyes of gratitude. Instead of feeling deprived and wronged, people would feel satisfied and blessed. Not that there aren't injustices in the world to confront--racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, to name a few. There are. But, if all the homophobes or Islamophobes simply lived their lives in love and gratitude, they wouldn't hate gay people or Muslims. Ditto racists and sexists.
I am not a child of the 1960s. I shower. Wear shoes and socks. I can't remember the last time I flashed the peace sign to anybody. However, embracing love and gratitude is not just a hippie thing. It goes back a lot further. To Jesus Christ. To before Jesus Christ. In the Book of Daniel, there is this little passage:
. . .
Every shower and dew, bless the Lord.
All you winds, bless the Lord.
Fire and heat, bless the Lord.
Cold and chill, bless the Lord.
Dew and rain, bless the Lord.
Frost and chill, bless the Lord.
Ice and snow, bless the Lord.
Light and darkness, bless the Lord.
Lightnings and clouds, bless the Lord.
Let the earth bless the Lord.
. . .
So, you see, the call for gratitude isn't new. It's ancient. And, really, it's exhausting to live in a constant state of deprivation and anger, feeling wronged and cheated every minute of the day. The people who live like that just elected Donald Trump to be President of the United States.
So, gratitude is the word for the day, the week, the month, the year, the century, the millennium.
Tonight, Saint Marty is grateful for his wife, who keeps him sane and centered when he's going off the rails.