Newcastle — My friend Natasha continuously derides me for complaining about the state of the world. “Why do you listen to the news if it always irritates you?” she queries. She has a point. Ignorance may not be bliss, but it’s a whole lot cheerier than being informed. However, I don’t seem able to reform. At one point, to counter my prevailing pessimism, she vowed to write a “Good News” blog. It never materialized. I suspect she reluctantly realized the lack of good news.
As you are likely aware, publications of “Good News” are available. Natasha provided me with the following:
I believe Tich Nhat Hanh when he writes, “We pay so much attention to what is wrong, why not notice what is wonderful and refreshing? I visited these sites.
With regard to the first, I found almost all of the reported entries to be unconvincing. There was an RTBH (Reason To Be Hopeful) story about an Australian millionaire who is busy giving away all his money, because he finds it doesn’t make him happy. Well, here’s a flash from me: “When you’ve given it all away you’ll still be miserable, but you’ll be poor as well. This is better?” Another, older, RTBH chronicles the uplifting story of Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampong, nicknamed "The Snow Leopard", who was the first person from Ghana to take part in the Winter Olympics. In 2010 he qualified for the slalom, as the last entry among 102 contestants. But (and here’s the RTBH part) he finished 53rd of the 54 who made it successfully to the bottom. OK! He beat somebody, but who cares? Also, unfortunately the story has a dark side. The Snow Leopard moved to England in 2000 where he began skiing, so the bit about being Ghanaian is a stretch.
The second site revealed entirely too much do-gooding. Some of the topics: “Little dresses, sewing hopes for little girls;” “Pairing pups with people who need them most;” “Sharing the gift of health.” Gleep! Pass the antiemetic, please. I confess that there was one entry that intrigued me: “Peace Corps returns to Sierra Leone.” I take a perverse pleasure in following actions that are completely hopeless, in the vein of “Democracy for Afghanistan.”
The Good News Network informs me: “Scientists say the notoriously dry continent of Africa is sitting on a vast reservoir of groundwater. They argue that the total volume of water in aquifers underground is 100 times the amount found on the surface.” Now that is good news. Nothing is more precious than fresh water. Unfortunately, being who we are, when we find a source of water or oil or just about anything, we busy ourselves depleting, wasting, or spoiling it. Also, it can be noted that 100 times almost nothing isn’t exactly bountiful.
From the same network, how about: "Silicon Valley Launches $10M Seed Fund for African Tech, UN Leaders Pledge 80% Broadband Coverage by 2020." Is this good news? I don’t think so. I take the contrarian's view that increased communication correlates with increased dissatisfaction. Think “Arab Spring.” Sorry, Natasha, these “Good News” sites don’t work for me. Sorry Tich.
Natasha also suggested http://www.theonion.com/. The Onion is a publication to which I have long paid attention, from the days when I lived in the liberal Mecca where it is published. Their articles do cheer me up, but not because they emphasize “Good News.” Quite the contrary, they ridicule the establishment with a biting sarcasm or they sensationalize the trivial in a manner that I thoroughly enjoy. For example: “Exhausted from months of trying, to little avail, to hit the ball, the last-place Minnesota Twins gathered around manager Ron Gardenhire in the clubhouse Friday afternoon to ask if they could be allowed to stop swinging their bats all the way around. ‘We can just do the one where you hold your bat out there halfway with both hands and see if the ball hits it,’ suggested second baseman Alexi Casilla.” That’s funny! Or: “Ann Romney, wife of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, said Monday that despite her husband's public image as a shameless opportunist with no convictions whatsoever, in private he displays a rare principled side that most people never get to see.” This is good; in-depth character analysis, not just political drivel. I heartily recommend The Onion to you.
The final thing suggested to me by Natasha is found on the AARP site: “Take the Happiness Quiz.” I hastened to do this. I try to be open-minded. Happily (pun intended) the quiz is brief, commensurate with my short attention span. There are 5 statements which we are asked to evaluate on 7 levels from “strongly agree (7)” to “strongly disagree (1).” It should be completed in a minute or two, because it is better to react than to ruminate. How did I do? I scored 20 out of the 35 points available to the mindless optimist. This translates to an evaluation of “neutral.” Aha! So you see, Natasha, I am not the pathetic pessimist you make me out to be. This is good news.
You can find the quiz at http://www.aarp.org/personal-growth/spirituality-faith/info-07-2010/take_the_happiness_quiz.html. Try it. Good luck!