America's Facebook generation shows a submission to standardization that I haven't seen before. The American adventure has always been about people forgetting their former selves - Samuel Clemens became Mark Twain, Jack Kerouac went on the road. If they had a Facebook page, they wouldn't have been able to forget their former selves.
Samuel Johnson called it the vanity of human wishes, and Buddhists talk about the endless cycle of desire. Social psychologists say we get trapped on a hedonic treadmill. What they all mean is that we wish, plan and work for things that we think will make us happy, but when we finally get them, we aren't nearly as happy as we thought we'd be.
Long before the idea of a writer's conference was a glimmer in anyone's eye, writers learned by reading the work of their predecessors. They studied meter with Ovid, plot construction with Homer, comedy with Aristophanes; they honed their prose style by absorbing the lucid sentences of Montaigne and Samuel Johnson.
Pictures and reminders fill my office. Samuel Cochran, B. H. Hodges, my parents, my wife, my brother and sisters, my fellow Marines from a time of brutal combat in Vietnam, my five children and one stepdaughter; those who went before me, those who were young with me and grew older by my side, and those who will be here long after I am gone.
Samuel Beckett's 'Waiting for Godot,' billed as 'the laugh sensation of two continents,' made its American debut at the Coconut Grove Playhouse, in Miami, Florida, in 1956. My father, Bert Lahr, was playing Estragon, one of the two bowler-hatted tramps who pass the time in a lunar landscape as they wait in vain for the arrival of a Mr. Godot.