G.K. Chesterton (above), perspective, and most of all, optimism: Ryan Harkins’ Comment of the Day, prompted by the post Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/12/17: Hurricane Reports, And Poor Charles M. Blow Needs A Vacation, (about NYT columnist Charles Blow—the idiot– declaring today’s USA “Hell on Earth”) has all of these, and wisdom too.
Here it is:
Okay, I tried to read the article, and I made it no further than Blow describing Trump’s America as the ninth circle of hell. When one strikes that level of hyperbole, it eradicates any credibility one might have possessed.
One of the greatest counters to depression and despair is an attitude of gratitude, something I truly see lacking in anything coming from the left. We have a great nation. We have great opportunities, and we have a culture that truly seeks – if sometimes in very strange, even damaging ways — to right wrongs and make life as fair as possible. If you look around the world, and if you look at just about any culture that existed since the dawn of history, you won’t find any people who have been so richly blessed as those in our country today. This is especially true when you consider the stability our nation has, and its lack of credible enemies that pose any existential threat to our nation. We can go about life assured that tomorrow will indeed be much like today.
Even in the face of hurricanes, we have much for which to be grateful. We have incredible technology that gives us quite a bit of advanced warning that the storms were coming. We have minimized death tolls in the face of these natural disasters, and we have a government willing to pour billions of dollars into rebuilding communities destroyed by the hurricanes. We have seen an incredible outpouring of generosity from the nation at large to help the hurricane victims (the Knights of Columbus alone raised $1.3 million). Yes, the devastation is traumatic, and yes people have lost livelihoods, all their possessions, and even family members. But this strikes against one very important aspect of life.
There is suffering in this world. All of us will be inflicted by it at one point in time or another. In our struggle against the natural evils of the world, we seem to be continually deluding ourselves (the right is guilty of this, too, but the left seems to be taking it to extremes) that we can create a true utopia here on earth. We seem to think we can become masters of the universal forces that dictate the weather, that dictate our biology, that dictate the inner workings of the universe itself. It is this delusion that leads us to see a President like Trump, or Obama, or any other president that has been disliked, as a major setback on the path to nirvana. Yet, there is a quote by G.K. Chesterton that we should all keep in mind (forgive the length, but I find it profound):
“For at present we all tend to one mistake; we tend to make politics too important. We tend to forget how huge a part of a man’s life is the same under a Sultan and a Senate, under Nero or St Louis. Daybreak is a never-ending glory, getting out of bed is a never-ending nuisance; food and friends will be welcomed; work and strangers must be accepted and endured; birds will go bedwards and children won’t, to the end of the last evening. And the worst peril is that in our just modern revolt against intolerable accidents we may have unsettled those things that alone make daily life tolerable. It will be an ironic tragedy if, when we have toiled to find rest, we find we are incurably restless. It will be sad if, when we have worked for our holiday, we find we have unlearnt everything but work. The typical modern man is the insane millionaire who has drudged to get money, and then finds he cannot enjoy even money. There is danger that the social reformer may silently and occultly develop some of the madness of the millionaire whom he denounces. He may find that he has learnt how to build playgrounds but forgotten how to play. He may agitate for peace and quiet, but only propagate his own mental agitation…
There is danger in that modern phrase ‘divine discontent’. There is truth in it also, of course; but it is only truth of a special and secondary kind. Much of the quarrel between Christianity and the world has been due to this fact; that there are generally two truths, as it were, at any given moment of revolt or reaction, and the ancient underlying truism which is nevertheless true all the time. It is sometimes worth while to point out that black is not so black as it is painted; but black is still black, and not white. So with the merits of content and discontent. It is true that in certain acute and painful crises of oppression or disgrace, discontent is a duty and shame could call us like a trumpet. But it is not true that man should look at life with an eye of discontent, however high-minded. It is not true that in his primary, naked relation to the world, in his relation to sex, to pain, to comradeship, to the grave or to the weather, man ought to make discontent his ideal; it is black lunacy. Half his poor little hopes of happiness hang on his thinking a small house pretty, a plain wife charming, a lame foot not unbearable, and bad cards not so bad. The voice of the special rebels and prophets, recommending discontent, should, as I have said, sound now and then suddenly, like a trumpet. But the voices of the saints and sages, recommending, contentment, should sound unceasingly, like the sea.”