I do not usually write personal posts, but a question put to me yesterday by one of my daughters made me think about this. So, here we go.
She asked me, ‘How do you manage to stay cheerful when you look at what is happening in the world?’ A good question. Not sure I have a full and proper answer to it but I will try.
I remember at age twenty sitting in a friends basement sobbing my heart out at the state of the world, asking the question ‘why do we say ‘man’s inhumanity to man’ when in fact it is us, humans, who are cruel, thoughtless, prejudiced, greedy, violent, murderous, bullying, brutal, selfish ….. so to be all these things is not inhuman, it is human… we should call it man’s humanity to man?’
Maybe that is so, but in answer to my daughter’s question..
I remain cheerful because that is not the sum of who or what we are.
I remain cheerful because, amazingly, I am an optimist..
I remain cheerful because that is my make up, I feel blessed that my chemistry allows me to feel so!
I remain cheerful because I believe that we can do better.
I remain cheerful because I am able to focus on the small things – sometimes to look upon the whole world in all its misery still overwhelms me, so I focus in and look closely.
I remain cheerful because when I do that I am able to find beauty, kindness, laughter, love and unselfishness alongside all the sadness and madness.
I remain cheerful because I am lucky enough to be part of an extended loving family.
I remain cheerful because despite the multitude of faults in humanity I still find us interesting.
I remain cheerful because when I realised, way back then, that I could not on my own change the world (ah, youth!) I also realised that I could change bits and pieces of it. That small things can make a difference. It is true.
So, I remain cheerful because in my life, where it has been possible, I have worked to change things that seemed to me to be wrong. Small things, sometimes slightly bigger things. But never enough, absolutely never enough. Alongside this I have also just lived my life, and have been lucky enough to do so – lucky enough to love, to rear my children, to listen to music, to write, to teach, to work, to just live. To do all the things that are denied to so many.
As I write this I know that right now there are people in situations that will prevent them from ever being cheerful; there are people being killed; raped; tortured; starved; abused; bullied. There are animals being slaughtered, confined, tortured, abused and bullied. It is an unequal and unfair world. And yes it still overwhelms me every time I look out on it – but now instead of sobbing I suppose I think, what can I do?
So, having written all that I am no longer sure why I remain cheerful – there are many who believe that those who do are merely blind to the horror. Maybe that is so. But maybe it is also just luck. In my case lucky in where I was born, who I was born to and the composition of my brain. I reckon it’s that – pure luck.
It has allowed me to realise that there was no point in dissolving into a puddle of tears like the Squonk (who, in American folklore, evaded capture by dissolving himself in a pool of tears) – or spend my life apologising for being lucky. Instead I suppose I have thought that I might try to put my luck to good use, look out onto the world with my eyes wide open and see what is to be done … and then try to do little bits of that … tiny, miniscule, microscopic bits … Hard to do as I wear a thin skin, and the torment and suffering of the world breaks through it very easily.
Having said all that …