Admittedly, any substantive insight into such a conceptual proverb used in everyday life is attributable to the eloquent thoughts of Yiyun Li, in her recently published collection of essays. Such insights are so deliciously stated, with linguistic content so deftly conveyed, that the undersigned cannot refrain from grasping, grappling and attempting to add onto that which cannot be improved upon.
Well, at least plagiarism is no longer anything more than a forgivable sin, and not even a venial one at that. The concept goes to the heart of comparing misery and quantifying misfortune. When faced with a catastrophe, we minimize by comparative qualification: Well, at least… As if contrasting a lesser misfortune on a spectrum of possible calamities will pull the pendulum away from the pain and sorrow it has reached, and compel a more balanced perspective and diminish the weight of heartache. Does such a diminution of personal failure by reducing it to a lesser quantity concurrently minimize the sorrow felt?
To a grieving parent whose oldest child has passed away, while sparing the lives of another sibling or two; Well, at least… At what point does such an insight fail to achieve its goal? Would it carry the same weight if 5 of 6 children perished? Could you still get away with saying the same thing? What if she is the lone survivor? At what point on the spectrum of human calamity does such a statement retain any semblance of empathetic import and meaning?
For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition prevents the Federal or Postal employee from performing one or more of the essential elements of the positional duties occupied: Well, at least he/she can file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits…
The fact is, for almost all Federal and Postal employees, that option is the last one they want to initiate; for, most Federal and Postal employees want to continue to maintain, extend and excel in their chosen careers.
In the instance of Federal and Postal employees, however, such a phrase has further significance, in the following manner: the availability of an alternative in the event that all other avenues of choices become unavailable. Thus, in such a context, it is not a quantification of sorrow or comparative analysis of choices presented; rather, for Federal employees and U.S. Postal Service workers, whether under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, it is a mere recognition that, in that unwanted event where a promising career needs to be cut short, there is at least the option of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, to be filed with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. Well, at least…
Robert R. McGill, Esquire