Why Dr Seuss has the best advice about what to do when good things come to an end

In her last Scotsman column, Kate Copstick spurns Shakespeare’s talk of the ‘sweet sorrow’ of parting and turns to the wisdom of Dr Seuss instead

Parting, wrote England’s Wullie, is such sweet sorrow. This, in my humble opinion, is nonsense. One parts from something or someone one hates and it is sweet. One parts from someone or something one loves and it is sorrow. Unless emotional sado-masochism is your bag, the two do not go hand in hand. I do realise that he was writing about ‘parting’ and not ‘ending’, but they are similar.

As a family, we spent a month each summer in Elie in the East Neuk of Fife. They were glorious weeks – frequently less than tropical, but glorious. I remember, at the end of our month there, going around saying goodbye to everything: the beach ponies up at the quarry, Cowrie Bay, the harbour… it was all very emotional, albeit I knew we would be back the next year. I don't think I had the capacity to imagine never going back to Elie. But a lot can happen in a year in Paisley. And one year we just didn't. It ended.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Of course, the ultimate ending (I apologise for the tautology there) is death – albeit the human heart tries to find so many ways around it. I sometimes feel that that is the purpose of religion – to persuade us, in various ways, that death is not the end. But, much as I do wish my loved ones were “a thousand winds that blow” or “the diamond glints on snow” – as in Clare Harner’s poem Immortality – they are not. They have ended.

There's wisdom to be found in Dr Seuss's books (Picture: Brad Barket/Getty Images)There's wisdom to be found in Dr Seuss's books (Picture: Brad Barket/Getty Images)
There's wisdom to be found in Dr Seuss's books (Picture: Brad Barket/Getty Images)
Read More
On the streets amid Kenya’s violent revolt against its president, I discovered s...

Only viable alternative?

Now that democracy in the UK has taken its course, we are embroiled in a maelstrom of partings and endings and all the various emotions that go with them. It is something quite close to tragic to see the SNP lose 38 seats, including kissing goodbye to all six seats in Glasgow. Looking back over the history of the party, while this might not be the absolute end for Scottish Independence, it has certainly, to use a Scottish expression much beloved in our family “put their gas at a peep”.

On the other hand, in general, it is something quite close to delightful to see the Tories lose so comprehensively, albeit it would be more satisfying if the opposition were a genuine one, rather than the only viable 'alternative'. And if their benches in the Commons did not include quite such a presence from parties like Reform.

The outcome of the election was probably a 'least-worst' scenario. So not really an ending, more an enforced emergency 'time out' for the population. But that will have to do to be going on with. Let's face it, Sir Keir is as truly Labour as I am Kim Kardashian. And I feel almost certain that, unlike Rishi Sunak, he did have Sky TV when growing up. But I digress.

This is also a time of many hard fought for, long overdue endings here in Kenya. The Gen Z protestors I wrote about last week have wrought previously unimaginable change at government level – a desperate President William Ruto has axed 50 per cent of his government advisors, put an end to 47 state corporations and cancelled a load of freeloaders' luxury budgets.

These are endings, each in its own way, to rival the death of the Night King in Game of Thrones. And, it is to be hoped, for Kenya’s sake, if there is not yet a completely new beginning, there is at least the start of one.

‘In the end is my beginning’

Endings are much bigger than beginnings. After a beginning, anything could happen or, indeed, not. There is merely potential. After a true ending, there is nothing. Which may or may not be a bad thing.

Of course TS Eliot's “In my beginning is my end... in the end is my beginning” is another way of looking at it, but only if you accept that each stage of something is an entity unto itself. Although – and this thought has just popped into my head – it is unlikely that Eliot was writing about the ultimate sacrifice made by the female fig wasp.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Fig fans look away now. Especially if you are vegan. The wasp is lured into the immature fig, lays her eggs and then – to cut a gruesome story short – dies inside the fig and is absorbed as a nutrient.

Endings can be much harder to effect than beginnings, albeit that seems counter-intuitive. But the “war to end wars” didn't, Bob Geldof didn't end famine in Ethiopia and William Wilberforce didn't end slavery. John Lennon and Yoko could warble that “war is over if you want it” right to the top of the charts, but it just is not that simple. Even for a Beatle.

Smile with Dr Seuss

Yet Chaucer – get me with my quotes from the great and the good! – did say “all things must end”, which, perversely, we have turned into “all good things must come to an end”. But Geoff didn't discriminate. And who am I to argue?

Which brings me to the reason for my witterings here today on the subject of endings. This is my last column for the Scotsman. It has been an absolute pleasure and a privilege to be allowed to opine on all manner of subjects, to an intelligent readership such as yourselves.

Of course, as many of you already know, in my opinion, there is no better advice about an ending than that offered by Dr Seuss: “Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.” So I am smiling, dear readers, I am smiling.



Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.