Notes from My Knapsack 9-9-10
Notes From an Unrepentant Optimist
Glasses that are half full and half empty, spectacles with roseate hues, buttered toast falling to the carpeting – plenty of metaphors out there for the spectrum of optimism to pessimism.
What do you call it if you believe, and generally feel that everything will turn out all right, but only after a fair amount of misery? If you assess the nature of most people as lazy, but well intended, while suffering from a surplus of rationalization, still always trying to do the right thing: does that make one a misanthrope? A Timon of Athens?
If you watch too much cable news, or its vast extrusions across the internet, you generally hear about fear, terror, crisis, collapse, epidemic, outbreak, disaster, anger, bitterness, resentment, anxiety, and oh yeah, fear.
All of which gets you to read down past the jump, click to page two, or stay for the second half hour.
That being their main point and purpose.
In general, the picture they paint of reality is done in primary colors, mostly blood red and coward yellow and depressive blue. As any of you know who have to work much with computer printers, it's amazing what you can do with those three tints, but it takes some subtle mixing and attention to detail. Lose either of those qualities, and you get ghostly shadowing or muddy outlines that aren't even recognizable.
We're up against the tenth anniversary of a horrible act, a crime against this nation and against the very idea of peace and justice. It still beggars my not inconsiderable imagination that anyone, no matter what their motivation, could shoulder their way past families with small children to butcher flight attendants and pilots to fly planes into office towers.
There is, afoot in the world, the ability to choose an evil beyond imagining, and I do imagine that this is part of what our presidents have to try to vividly imagine every morning, so that Bush now looks ten years younger and Obama ten years older, only two years after their change of responsibilities.
So sure, we have to be able to think the unthinkable from time to time, and it's deeply unsettling to learn that some who wanted to walk in the footsteps of the 9-11 assassins met to plan in an Upper Arlington coffee shop that I've been in myself. It makes you think.
What it shouldn't make you think is that this is the norm for humanity, that most people are readily able to turn that corner into darkness. We have it in us, and some do, but for the most part, most bad decisions are no more than the result of looking for a corner to cut, wanting to knock off early, to get a task done faster so as to move on to . . . well, to do what we want to do.
There's an old saying "Never attribute to malice or hostility what can more easily be explained by ignorance and laziness." Most so-called conspiracies and crimes, whether of omission or commission, are more a convergence of corner-cutting characters than they are shrouded figures plotting our harm, or their gain, in private.
I promise to say a bit more about the Newark Holy Stones next column, but that needed to be said first, for the season we're in, and actually, to help set up what really is at work with those puzzling artifacts found 150 years ago.
Meanwhile, be of good cheer: most of the opposition we face in this world means well, but is looking for the easy way out. I remember that every time I look at my greatest enemy, which is most mornings while brushing my teeth.
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; tell him what makes you hopeful or fearful at email@example.com, or follow Knapsack @Twitter.