By DAVID MOON, Moon Capital
December 30, 2001
Every year about this time, commentators write and talk about how the year
just ending was special and different in some way. Each year's writers
make the argument that things are now colder, more violent, less civil or more
dangerous than ever before. Every generation has a tendency to presume a
moral and cultural decay vis-'-vis previous generations. I guess it is the
"glass-is-half-empty" part of our collective consciousness.
Perhaps they are right. But I doubt it. Are things different now
than a year ago? September 11 was a horrible tragedy unlike anything I
have ever come close to witnessing. In many ways, it was unlike anything
that has ever happened in this country. To the individuals directly
touched, it will be the most defining event in their families' lives. But
in other ways and in a universal sense, it was simply another in a
centuries-long series of senseless and unexplainable violations of the God-given
right to life.
Usama bin Laden is not the first candidate for anti-Christ, nor is he likely
to be the last. In the almost 2,000 years since the writings of the
apostle Paul (and probably for centuries before that), men have warned of the
coming end of time, pointing to a perceived increase in senseless destruction as
The horrible atrocities of the German holocaust against the Jews are well
documented. Less is known about the 25,000 Polish citizens who were also
murdered in the spring of 1940 by either German or Russian soldiers.
Imagine being in Syria in 1138 and 1139 when, in two consecutive years,
earthquakes killed an estimated 100,000 and 230,0000 people, respectively.
Or 60 years later when another 1 million Syrians died in a third
earthquake. Think about over half a million Americans dying in the US
Civil War. Or the 6,600 people killed each month during the 44 months of
World War II. Whether by the hand of man or nature, irreconcilable death
and misery have been a part of life as long as we know. Some scientists
even suggest that on three occasions in the last 250 million years, the earth
experienced almost complete extinctions of life as the result of violent comet
or meteor collisions.
Whether the earth is 250 million years old or a mere 10,000, it is clear that
it is easiest to relate to things from the perspective of our own
experiences. The reason it takes so long for next Christmas to get here
for a five-year-old is because another year is an additional 20 percent of his
life. But a year seems to fly by for me because 12 months add less than 3
percent to the length of my life. This was a horrible year for millions of
people - not just those affected by terrorists, wars, or stock market
corrections. Those calamities have always happened, but never to most of
those specific people.
In a September 23rd memorial service in Yankee Stadium, Rabbi Marc Gellman
noted that 6,000 people did not die on September 11; one person died 6,000
times. Gellman is correct; life is lived and lost one person at a
time. Each of us has our own individual experiences and we relate to those
experiences within the brief context of our own lives.
In "My Favorite Memory," Merle Haggard, the poet of the common man, sings "I
guess everything does change, except what we choose to recall." What
incredible wisdom. I am not the first man to struggle with juggling new
fatherhood and a business. Millions before me have traversed these waters
successfully and I shouldn't feel or act as if I am blazing virgin
territory. You may have lost a job, a loved one or a million dollars last
year; you were not the first, nor will you be the last. Life presents few,
if any, new challenges. The challenges may be new for you, but someone has
faced your demons before - and survived.
David Moon is president of Moon Capital Management, a
Knoxville-based investment management firm. This article
originally appeared in the News Sentinel (Knoxville, TN).