Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Trying to Think Positive

"I was going to buy a copy of The Power of Positive Thinking, and I thought: What the hell good would that do?" - Ronnie Shakes

Every day I wake up and try to find a way to feel better about the world, and get motivated to go out and do my work, but it's not always so easy. I don't even know how to approach yesterday's beheading of American Nick Berg in Iraq. How do I go about any of the trivial things that are on my to-do list today when such things are possible?

Of course, some of my fellow citizen's reaction - even peace-loving progressive citizens - is quite understandably, "Let's kill those SOBs, torture them, then kill them again." Of course; we're already doing that. And that is the purported reason for the beheading of Nick Berg.

Before the Berg story broke yesterday, there was the story of the Senator from Oklahoma who was "outraged over the outrage" over our treatment of Iraqi POWs. Defending the torture and humiliation, he thought it was nobody's business but our own, and nobody had a right to criticize us. I, of course, was outraged at his outrage over the outrage.

And so it builds, and so it goes. Snowballs, dominoes, whatever metaphor you prefer. There appears to be no end to this growing cycle of violence.

When all outside seems hopeless and impossible, the best thing we can do is look inside ourselves and try to find some small kernel of the goodness we'd like the world to reflect. As Gandhi put, "Be the change you want to see."

In these cynical times, that may seem incredibly naïve and futile. But it's better than the alternatives of giving in to the violence or simply giving up.

"When I was young and free and my imagination had no limits, I dreamed of changing the world. As I grew older and wiser, I discovered the world would not change, so I shortened my sights somewhat and decided to change only my country. But it, too, seemed immovable. As I grew into my twilight years, in one last desperate attempt, I settled for changing only my family, those closest to me, but alas, they would have none of it. And now, as I lie on my deathbed, I suddenly realize: If I had only changed myself first, then by example I would have changed my family. From their inspiration and encouragement, I would then have been able to better my country, and who knows, I may have even changed the world." - Inscribed on the tomb of an Anglican Bishop in Westminster Abby (1100 A.D.)

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