This Magic Moment

Eight years after it aired, the finale of The Sopranos continues to be hotly debated. David Chase explains how he created the excruciating tension of the last scene. What he won’t say is what happened at the end.

This Magic Moment

In my preachin’ days, I used to remind congregants that, if they wanted to know what really was important in their lives, they should ignore those religious creeds they recited by rote, and instead look at their MasterCard statements. In those columns of black and red lie a large part of the story of our lives — decisions about bottles of wine, trips abroad, music, books, theatre … yes, even pets. Our chequebooks (together with our calendars) write a digital autobiography — things we’ve chosen to do, meals we’ve chosen to eat, friends we’ve travelled to see, and so on.

And here’s the thing. Every one of those choices has an ethical component. In the column you reference, I made the point (which, strangely, some found controversial) that we live in a world of aching human need. The World Health Organization estimates that 1.5 million deaths among young children are due to diseases preventable by routine vaccination. As many as five kids can be immunized for a dollar — that’s a hundred kids who might live, for the price of the wine I drank at dinner tonight. That takes some of the fizz out of popping a cork.

I’m not arguing we should live ascetic lives, wracked by guilt every time we see a movie. My own MasterCard statement speaks too loudly for that. I am, however, arguing that, whenever we spend a dollar, we have an obligation, at the minimum, to weigh the implications of that expenditure on the environment, our community, and our world.

Gandhi, among many other truth-speakers, taught us to live simply, so that others might simply live.

Everything was going great until you showed up. You see me across the crowded room, make your way over, and start talking at me. And you don’t stop.

You are a Democrat, an outspoken atheist, and a foodie. You like to say “Science!” in a weird, self-congratulatory way. You wear jeans during the day, and fancy jeans at night. You listen to music featuring wispy lady vocals and electronic bloop-bloops.

You really like coffee, except for Starbucks, which is the worst. No wait—Coke is the worst! Unless it’s Mexican Coke, in which case it’s the best.

Pixar. Kitty cats. Uniqlo. Bourbon. Steel-cut oats. Comic books. Obama. Fancy burgers.

You listen to the same five podcasts and read the same seven blogs as all your pals. You stay up late on Twitter making hashtagged jokes about the event that everyone has decided will be the event about which everyone jokes today. You love to send withering @ messages to people like Rush Limbaugh—of course, those notes are not meant for their ostensible recipients, but for your friends, who will chuckle and retweet your savage wit.

You are boring. So, so boring.