“Do you always watch for the longest day of the year and then miss it? I always watch for the longest day in the year and then miss it.”
Two great sentences here today, especially since we just celebrated (did you?) summer solstice yesterday. Don’t worry if you missed it. Daisy misses it every year!
In chapter 1 of Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby, the iconic Daisy Buchanan asks the question and immediately proceeds to answer it. Profoundly. So profoundly, in fact, that I’ve decided to use her question-answer form as an equation for some other quandaries:
“Do you ever think I could be unloading the dishwasher right now but will continue watching Netflix? I always think I could be unloading the dishwasher right now but will continue watching Netflix.“
“Do you always squeeze the toothpaste from the middle knowing it drives your husband crazy? I always squeeze the toothpaste from the middle knowing it will drive my husband crazy.”
“Should I go on with the profundity you see exhibited in these questions and answers? I could go on with the profundity you see exhibited in these questions and answers.”
You get the idea: The monotony of the sentence mimics the monotony of Daisy’s life. I remember the first time I read it, thinking that I could actually hear the boredom and apathy oozing from her voice. I still hold to that, and — come to find — it actually has a name: Affluent Apathy Syndrome (pronounced “ass”). Poor Daisy just doesn’t know what to do with herself. She has everything she thought she wanted but is still unhappy.
Ah, don’t we all watch and wait for something to happen just to miss it? And then languish over it? And then try to make up for lost time by finding our old lover, getting back with him, realizing even that isn’t doing it for us, running over and killing our husband’s lover, letting the blame fall on our (now old) lover, not attending our old lover’s funeral after he gets shot in a pool by our husband’s lover’s husband, just to start all over at square one with our misogynist husband?
What a beautiful little fool Daisy is. And while she may believe that a beautiful little fool is the best a girl can be, on behalf of Daisy, I’d like to apologize to all the women out there. Because we’re much more than that. Daisy watches and waits for Gatsby, her solstice, but sooner than later realizes the sticky situation she’s in. There’s so much buildup to Gatsby — the parties, the lights, the glitz, the glamour, the money, the fresh-squeezed orange juice, the shirts. She’s watching here. She knows the solstice is coming. And when she and Gatsby finally come together, on the “longest day of the year” of the narrative arc, what happens? True to the narrative style, the action begins to fall. The days immediately begin to get shorter. And she’s missed him, or the idea of him anyway (let’s face it, our ideas are often better than reality).
Time keeps beating on.
And beating on, and beating on.
And if our happiness is contingent upon reaching some goal, attaining some thing, etc., then we’ve missed it. But what, you might ask, is it?
Well if that’s not the million-dollar question, I don’t know what is. I’ll share that for me, my it is choosing to believe that there’s more to life than us. That there is a perfect God out there (right here?). That perfection may not be attainable for us, but that it’s out there. That we can strive towards it. And the beautiful (and ironic) thing? We can’t ever actually attain perfection in this life … so there’s no chance in missing it! An active “watching” for perfection I think is where happiness sneaks in. We won’t be sitting around, buoyed up on an enormous couch like Daisy. We will be active, going in the right direction, trying to do good along the way.
Humans (Gatsby) will let you down — just one reason I choose to believe in God. Because at the end of the day, I don’t want my narrative to end in futility:
“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
Happy summer solstice, friends. Even though we missed it.