Serenity NOW!

I started to watch “Happyish” on Netflix. The script was very good. But what became evident to me by episode 3 was the worldview… so ugly. The world sucks. People are awful.

HAPPYISHI had to stop watching, because I don’t want to feel hopeless, and right now things in our society feel a little, well, wretched.

It’s not hard for me to go there. I have negativity in me, too, even though I try to accentuate the positive. But this new world order of 24 hour news coverage and social media seems to push us toward snark and cynicism, not to mention simple, garden-variety hatred. Shit. Go to Twitter. People are often quite dreadful. Social media has given awful people a gassed-up vehicle for their terribleness.

And it feels like Hollywood has jumped on board. We all can name 5 popular shows about awful people. It’s really hard right now to find stuff to watch that isn’t gleeful about its sour worldview. Difficult People is very funny, and you can kind of see its tongue firmly in cheek, but man. Try watching an episode or two of that and then see how optimistic you feel about our society.

I’m writing this after a week of more terrorist attacks worldwide than I can count. A couple weeks after a devastating show of police brutality against two black males, followed by a heartbreaking massacre of police officers in Dallas. And now Baton Rouge.

Believe me, I’m lost in it. I can tell that many of us feel lost in it, unable to breathe.

And then the Republican National Convention starts with a benediction that cast Democrats as the enemy, and speaker after speaker spewed anger and heaped hatred on anyone not agreeing with that narrow view of the world.

And the response from the left has been similarly hate-filled. And I feel it, too. I feel hatred in my heart, too.

But then I think of the reasons I write books for young people. I don’t do it to fill their hearts with hatred. I do it because I sincerely want young people–especially young, LGBTQ people–to live with love and peace in their hearts, which is particularly crucial because of the vile hatred so many young LGBTQ people face every day. I want to help all young people find in books what I found as a young person, which was an opportunity to understand myself and people like me, as well as people not like me. Literature absolutely can do that. It’s that feeling you get when you’re reading and your heart opens and you think, like the awful grandmother at the very end of Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find”:

“Why you’re one of my babies. You’re one of my own children!” 

I get the irony that she was shot in the chest the next moment. But her last-moment realization that we are all one is exactly what I’m talking about. Her heart blooms. She gets it. Our connection to each other.

We are all we got, baby!

What do we do? How do we heal this all? I don’t know. I just know that anger and hatred are easy. Even if you’re right in your anger and hatred. Heck, that makes it even easier.

The amazing Anne Lamott was recently wondering the same thing on Facebook.

“I wish there was an 800 number we could call to find out, so I could pass this along to my worried Sunday School kids. But no. Yet in the meantime, I know that we MUST respond. We must respond with a show of force equal to the violence and tragedies, with love force. Mercy force. Un-negotiated compassion force. Crazy care-giving to the poor and suffering, including ourselves. Patience with a deeply irritating provocative mother. Two dollar bills to the extremely annoying guy at the intersection who you think maybe could be working, or is going to spend your money on beer. Jesus didn’t ask the blind man what he was going to look at after He restored the man’s sight. He just gave hope and sight; He just healed.

To whom can you give hope and sight today. What about to me, and disappointing old you? Radical self-care: healthy food, patience and a friendly tone of voice, lotions on the jiggly things, forgiving pants, lots of sunscreen and snacks. Maybe the random magazine.”

That’s about as good an answer as I can come up with. It comes down to us. And we will give in to anger and hatred, because those are perfectly normal reactions to everything right now, because everything feels so fucked up. Just look at my Facebook page to see how I go back and forth between love and fear, rage and light.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said it best: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

protestBut the response begins with us. We can personally fight hate with love. And I will try, again today, to do just that. I hope you will, too.

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2 Responses to Serenity NOW!

  1. Matt McMann says:

    Well said, Bill! Thank you for articulating what so many of us are feeling and pointing us to the best and only effective weapon we have in this fight – love.

  2. Katherine Cramer says:

    Amen! Thank you for providing a voice of reason, self-reflection, and love in the cacophony of anger, blame, and hate.

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