A few years ago my brother Neil and I met a grizzled, toothless man on a side street in Dingle, in County Kerry. His long beard and hair were extremely unkempt, and he was visibly inebriated. I couldn't guess his age, but it seemed to me that he had grown old prematurely. Naturally, I expected him to ask us for money, but he didn't. Instead, as he looked up at me though bloodshot, watery eyes which conveyed perhaps the deepest sadness I've ever seen written across human features, he offered me the following advice:
"Son," he said, "don't drink."
That brief meeting has stuck with me since then, sometimes returning to my conscious thoughts at odd moments, as it did this this morning as I drove in to work, listening to the radio. I couldn't tell you exactly why it did, but please don't think I'm trivializing that man's sufferings or his sage advice when I offer you the following, as someone who knows:
Son, don't listen to the news.