Sunday, November 23, 2008

Best of Times/Worst of Times

The macro view of the world focuses on crisis while the micro level brings happy views of comfort, fun and friends, of birthday parties and polka dot dresses, of backyard cookouts and big smiles -- the things that have always sustained people through stormy weather.

Lately, our shock-value media takes a grim and alarmist view of the world -- nattering daily about the burgeoning economic disaster like a sadistic doctor yelling, "this is going to REALLY HURT! And I mean REALLY REALLY BAD!!!" as he preps a patient for unavoidable surgery. How I wish for more wise and even-keeled journalists like Alistair Cooke, an Englishman who spent a lifetime reporting on the American experience. He was once described as a modern day Alexis de Tocqueville -- an outsider whose unique perspective offered insight into our nation's psyche.

"In the best of times," Cooke said decades ago, (when another era's people faced another disaster,) "our days are numbered anyway. So it would be a crime against nature for any generation to take the world crisis so solemnly, that it put off enjoying those things for which we were designed in the 1st place: the opportunity to do good work, to enjoy friends, to fall in love, to hit a ball, and to bounce a baby."

Or to toss stuffed animals in the air with a multicolored parachute. Life is good. (And when you get right down to it, happiness really isn't that expensive.)

23 comments:

USelaine said...

The pleasures of light, color, music, laughter, a fragrant flower, a soft caress, will stay with us. The deepest poverty would be poverty of the mind - to have no curiosity, or imagination enough to hum a tune, or stack some stones, or compose a poem.

Your post assures me of your riches in life.

Hilda said...

Beautiful post, Laurie! I think we all needed this bright spot of color, and that wonderful last line!

Jutilda said...

"The Grand essentials of happiness are: something to do, something to love, and something to hope for."

Allan K. Chalmers

Amidst all of the negativity that seems to feed our media like a pirhana frenzy, the the golden dance of swirling fall leaves continues to give us pause, babies are born to the elation and delight of their families, puppies snuggle up filling our nostrils with that unforgettable smell of their sweet breath, a child grabs her father's hand and looks up adoringly. You are right.. happiness doesn't cost much and is all around us if we only stop to look and take it in.

This week especially, let us be filled with gladness and thankfulness for those simple pleasures that bring so much joy to our hearts.

Eki Akhwan said...

I can't agree more with your first paragraph, Laurie. It's the micro world of small happiness that see us through hard times. It's a perfect photo too. The cheerfulness and happiness are well represented in the colors and actions. Bravo!

Tanya said...

What a beautiful photo to go with such and uplifting post! I love it!

I also want that polka dot dress, the one with the cute petticoat hanging below, will that look just as cute on a 42 year old? :D

altadenahiker said...

I so agree with your assessment of the media. And it's certainly not limited to financial coverage. Take the weather, for example. Sure, we're in a bit of a rainfall slump, but just wait until it rains. Then they'll talk about nothing but mudslides and traffic accidents. And whenever it rains, it's the wrong kind of rain -- too hard, too light, too warm, all runoff, all ground-soaking. Oh, it's sunny, how awful. It's raining, how awful.

Kelly said...

Amen Laurie! What a perfectly timely quote by Cooke! Love the photo with this post!

Petrea said...

I worked briefly in the news business. All negative, all the time. It's hard on a person's psyche.

We serve ourselves better when we remind ourselves what we have, rather than what we don't have. Fewer presents under the tree? Oh, pish tosh. A roof over our heads, love in our hearts, food in our bellies...We live like royalty.

I listen to the radio in the car; I heard about http://www.redefine-christmas.org/. Their idea is to give charitable gifts instead of material ones. I also heard that in times of financial crisis, Americans continue to give to charity. How about that?

Webradio said...

Pretty post, Laurie !
I think that we all needed this bright spot of color...

Nice colours on the picture...

See You later !

Dixie Jane said...

Just looking at your picture brings me joy and the remembrance of my own children. You are so right. Alistair Cook is so right. It's the simple things. Bless you for reminding us of what is important and depicting it in such a happy picture.

San Diego Farmgirl said...

Are any of those beautiful little girls yours?

babooshka said...

Al Cooke of course was revered here. His letters from American - radio show was one of the first real travelogues. A little optimism we all need.

Mister Earl said...

What a great sentiment, Laurie, and a great photo. Nice to have fun in these tough times.

Thanks for asking where I've been. I've been in the Santa Ynez area for the weekend. Pretty much out of touch with the regular world. I even took my camera.

Tash said...

Really uplifting post, Laurie. I also loved your closing lines.

Kathy H said...

You know what's the most fun of all? Distracting the kids with ice cream while you jump in the bounce house.

Seriously. It's one of the best times I've had as an adult. Maybe I should have a bounce house on my next big birthday.

Laurie said...

Hi kids,

Thanks for indulging me in my armchair philosophizing this weekend.

Welcome Kathy H!

Judy, I love the Chalmers quote, and everything you wrote.

Elaine, I agree. Poverty isn't a lack of funds, but a lack of spirit and imagination.

Tanya -- you'd look great in a polka dot dress at 42. I want one, too!

Altadenahiker, I'm so ready for the zeitgeist to transform our era's current personality. It seems that the news is either a junior high school snark fest -- or a version of some guy standing on the corner wearing a sign that says "The End is Nigh." Bah to all of it.

Petrea, I'm all for redefining CHristmas! Now that I have a child, I'm even more acutely aware of the excess of the holidays. The wrapping paper alone sends me into an eco-crisis. Plus, ever since I saw a documentary on the almost slave-like conditions of manufacturers making toys in Mainland China (talk about the absolute opposite of Santa's workshop) I've wanted something different than the American Christmas as usual. I feel like this economic downturn MIGHT bring about an age of less gross consumption... well, I can dream, anyway.

Mister Earl! Glad you're back. I hope your trip was fun and your pictures are good.

Thanks for all the comments and kind words, everyone. Until tomorrow...

Laurie said...

Oh, and Farmgirl -- these little girls aren't mine. But this little thoughtful beauty is.

Blognote said...

Wise words, Laurie, nd supported by a lovely photo!!

Petrea said...

I do love gift-giving, Laurie, in the right spirit. But sometimes I see in American advertising an ugly materialism that leads me to understand why our enemies hate us. If they're poor, and if that's what they know about us, we must look shallow and gross to them. No one thing (or type of person) defines a society, but when you're desperate it's hard to be rational, and the message of an angry, charismatic leader might get through to you...

Kim said...

What a pleasure to read your blog and your reader's comments on this, Laurie. NPR junkie that I am, I listened to Alistair Cooke's "Letters from America" over many years and you brought back that lovely, and in the end tottering, voice into my head.

There was a John Prine song folks at McCabe's used to sing a lot during the post-Vietnam generation's "back to the land movement" (leave the system behind and become self sufficient because everything is corrupt and the system is too big to change, so go outside of it and make a new system. . .that wing of that generation's Utopian vision, every generation or two seems to have one):
"Blow up your TV
Throw away your paper
Move to the country
Build you a home
Plant a little garden (have a lot of children)
Eat a lot of peaches
Try and find Jesus on your own"

Wonderful photo and wonderful thoughts. Thanks to you and your thoughtful commentators.
-Kim
Seattle Daily Photo

Dixie Jane said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Knoxville Girl said...

coming in a bit late on this but -yes, I think we get lost in the weeds with crisis overdose, and forget to just breathe and be in the moment, and accept whatever gift that brings. lovely photo, glorious thought, thanks Laurie (and Mr Cooke)

Halcyon said...

I totally agree with your sentiment! My life is not bad and neither is anyone else's that I know. Yes, some of us are cutting back... but I think America as a whole has gotten a little too consumer-y anyway and a change would do us good. It's not the stuff that really makes you happy anyway, it's family, friends and love.