I’m both a cockeyed optimist and a brooding cynic who oscillates back and forth between celebrating the goodness in humankind and deploring our baser instincts. I’ve watched the ebb and flow of life and seen near perfect days followed by violent storms. I am continually rewarded with unexpected acts of kinds and disappointed by outright betrayal. In other words, as people we have yet to achieve perfection, but in the big picture of history it seems that it is in our natures to want to be good. We are drawn to what is right and just even as we sometimes falter and lean toward the dark side. Like moths we are sometimes attracted to fire, but most of us prefer not to get burned.
The daily posts on my Facebook wall reflect our desires to be the best versions of ourselves even as we struggle to get there. I see videos from Ellen DeGeneres urging all of us to remember that on the whole people are quite good. “Be the reason someone believes in the goodness of people,” we are admonished, a gentle reminder that world views begin one person at a time. A friend features daily “messages from God” designed to guide our thoughts and actions away from the fears and jealousies that often lead to destructive behaviors that hurt us and those around us. The best among us understand what is most important in life and have the confidence to follow their loving instincts.
Our world is filled with so much noise, chaos that confuses us and causes us to question the motives of the people around us. It is easy to become withdrawn and to imagine that our self preservation is at risk. The blathering voices shine spotlights mostly on the horrors that exist in our midst, so much so that we begin to forget that while the potential for evil always exists, it is mostly an anomaly. Over and over again throughout history there have been heroes who rise up from their everyday lives to condemn and stop those who would wreak violence. We do not know their names or their faces, but we understand the power and the beauty of their sacrifices for the good of all of us.
Most of us are quiet people. We prefer to live our lives outside of the limelight. We spend our days working to create tiny slices of personal paradise. We follow the rules, work hard, and try not to make waves. We are in fact a silent majority that exists all over the world. We generally only desire to feel safe and secure and to find a bit of joy in our small personal circles. We take note of the problems around us and either attempt to solve them on a local level by offering our help or we use the power of our political voices to choose leaders whom we believe will create more sweeping governmental solutions. For the most part we desire to have peace of mind rather than to be constantly challenged, so we go quietly about our daily routines until situations demand our attention.
The story of mankind seems to repeat certain themes over and over again. Time and again the bullies and tyrants among us take advantage of our tendencies to want to ignore injustices that don’t directly affect us. We look away even as our sense of justice begs us to set things right. We ultimately reach a tipping point beyond which we no longer allow ourselves the luxury of avoidance. We find that heroic part of ourselves that we need to overcome the poisonous evil in our midst and we overthrow it. The dark forces go into hiding for a time and the princes of peace ascend. Still, we need to be aware that as of this moment in time there are still threats that we must take care to watch even as we celebrate the greater good in our midst. It is a balancing act that we and our ancestors have all had to learn to how to perform.
I watch the daily news and read about happenings both local and in the world at large, but try to remember that what I see and hear is not the entire representation of humanity. The bickering is a political creation designed to divide us and create problems between us. The sound and fury is part of a power play by groups intent on making us believe that we must choose sides, label ourselves as this or that. It would be easy to believe that we must ally ourselves like the tribes of old, devoid of any reasoning other than artificial designations of our differences.
I have seen four days of rain inundate my city, making roads impassable and filling homes with muck and mud. Those horrific hours brought out the true character of the millions of people who live in my city as well as those from far away. The boats came to rescue, the workers came to rebuild, the kindness of people was evident in every corner of the metropolis, from the poorest to the wealthiest areas. Nobody stopped to notice race or to inquire about religious beliefs or political affiliations. We were one people and our goodness and resilience momentarily inspired the entire world.
Sadly our news cycle is so rapid that we soon forget the wondrous examples of good that we see. Heroic efforts are replaced by stories of despots and the blathering of political opponents. We fall for the divisiveness and divide ourselves into camps. We see only the horrors around us and we begin to distrust and maybe even dislike anyone who does not think exactly the way we do. We fall for the propaganda that is used to distract us from the truth, which is that we are mostly good people who have a few villains among us. Our differences are not something to fear, but rather our greatest strength, but if we refuse to acknowledge that the truest successes of history have been the stuff of compromise we will quibble to the point of disaster.
The oldest trick in the book is to find ways to make us turn on one another, to view those who are different as our enemies. Right now we are in the midst of a worldwide effort to divide and conquer. We are being used as pawns by power brokers who want us to believe that we should be embattled with anyone who does not appear to be a kindred spirit. We have temporarily lost our ability to work together for common causes. The loudest and most obnoxious voices are calling the shots. Those of moderation are giving up the fight. We seem to have few choices, but we ultimately have the power and we will arise in all of our goodness when push comes to shove. It is what we humans do. We will one day quiet the noise and become the music again.