While highly distracted with love and hope (I fell for someone – on my face!), I managed to read three good but very different books…
Good ‘n Gettin’ Better
Here’s my tag line for an emerging song: “Good ‘n Gettin’ Better”
Beyond the ample evidence of how bad things are and are becoming, let’s go beyond our brain’s inherent typical frightened, hurt, wary view of the world. Our amygdala remembers hurt and stays leery of the world. It creates an automatic chatter that can prevent us from seeing how good we have it – personally and culturally. We’re better than that. Our prefrontal neocortex brain can remind and orient us that we’re good and getting better.
For instance, despite the in-your-face overwhelming evidence that our climate is being dangerously warmed by our modern ubiquitous technological habits, we are beginning to admit it and address it. A wonderfully concise and informative cartoon video (in part sponsored by billionaire Bill Gates) explains our personal and collective predicament here:
(My apologies for the huge graphic
which I can’t reduce in WordPress
to the simple URL for this link.)
The crisp narration explains even if we were to totally eliminate all the ways we individually create a “carbon footprint” by using products, driving, heating, eating, etc., eschewing them for our whole life, it would reduce the world’s actual carbon emissions by only one second’s worth!
So, my hanging my clothes on the line, driving an electric bike, etc. does very little to confront and change global heating. This is dismaying, discouraging, disempowering, which can lead to the “decision fatigue” and “moral licensing” of cynicism and giving up, not just for me, but for everyone.
However, just as it took thousands of little unconscious acts by everyone since the dawn of modernity to add to the carbon heat blanket now wreaking havoc on humanity, so will many little acts of effort begin to face and fix it. Why? Because it’s good and getting better.
A lovely song tells of this. Our own Pricilla Quimby, singing with her husband guitarist, Bill Leonhart, introduced it to me, but I couldn’t find a simple, sweet version as she did. Judy Garland’s version is so over-produced, it’s ponderous. But I found a version of her singing it on Jack Paar’s old 60s tv show:
Our “little drops” – of kindness, helpfulness, social graciousness, efforts to reduce carbon pollution personally and (as free and responsible citizens) collectively – can all add up to make this world a better place.
You have at least this one precious human life to live. How will you do that? This thoughtful little animated video places us in our, say, 100 year-long life.
Good and getting better isn’t just a personal thing. It works for all of us. As we begin to adopt a eudemonic (pleasurable) life for not just us, but for all those around us, things will get better.
We need to be wary of wariness, cynicism, and paranoia.
Did you react to my including a video in part sponsored by Bill Gates? Why? Isn’t he involved in making money by injecting microchips in our arms along with the supposedly benign covid vaccinations? Or so some believe. Some believe any governmental or corporate efforts to improve human life are rooted in selfishness and greed. Perhaps an elite evil cabal is ruling the world towards massive racial and ideological extermination. Perhaps it is so bad the vaccine we take to ward off and diminish the horrid disease and death caused by the virus actually is intended to make it worse. A dear friend of mine will no longer see me. Why? Because I’ve been vaccinated, ergo, I’m the dangerous infectious agent.
Surely, this isn’t good and getting better. Some 20% to 30% of Americans won’t get the vaccine. They complain doing so would violate their freedom. Some of them go on to shout their freedom spit in others’ faces. They don’t realize or don’t care about social responsibility, that getting the vaccination and wearing a mask is part of the responsibility that always should accompany freedom. Parading defiant selfishness trumps (to use a now forever-tainted verb) being a member of a community trying to address this humanity-wide challenge.
But mostly, we wary, weary, and riled Americans are getting the lesson and cooperating with the few mechanisms we have to keep this scourge from staying bad and getting worse.
A similar riled resistance rouses up around so-called “climate change.” (I say “so-called” because it is an ambiguous term saying almost nothing; the climate is made up of weather that is always changing. “Climate change,” says far less than “global warming,” or “global havoc,” or “global trouble,” or “the end of nice weather,” etc.)
Local bikers are complaining about someone in a huge pickup truck who edges them off the road and deliberately belches clouds of black diesel smoke in their faces. This rude and dangerous act is growing in the country. People have to modify their engines to make it possible. It’s a more visible version of “a fart in the face of Mother Nature” than our more widespread and innocently unconscious way of going about our usual business.
While I could say, “See how bad it is,” I instead appreciate Bill Gates and those who made that video I posted (above) along with Alan Journet (the retired environmental professor who survived leukemia to devote the remainder of his life to lead SOCAN, a local environmental group) or Al Gore chugging along as best he can, having been robbed of the presidency, or the millions of Americans trying to reduce their carbon footprint and trying to get a congress so compromised and corrupt (are you reading this, Joe Manchin?) to catch up to other countries like China in addressing this historic trans-national challenge.
In other words, that bulky sentence is trying to say things are good and getting better.
Instead of wincing at the worst, brain science advises we generate gratitude for whatever better we can muster. We need to ensconce neural pathways in our brains to travel instead of the hurt and wariness we tend to think with. This applies not just to our personal well-being but our collective, economic, technological, social, and political situations as well.
It also challenges writers and artists to generate feasible utopias instead of going for the easier dystopias. Scary and bad things are more dramatic than reassuring good ones. The belching pickup truck is easier to portray and grab people’s attention than a Prius or a Tesla. We need our comedians, visionaries, and heroic leaders.
Speaking of Tesla, note how Elon Musk has done far more to move our world towards clean, renewable energy and transport than those other two billionaires showing off in space. Yet Elon gets picked at. Of the transformative engineers and business persons we have to admire, I’d put him up there with Buckminster Fuller and Henry Ford, only better than either. His cars, batteries, and rooftops are pivotal in humanity’s eventual well-being. While only the well-to-do can afford a Tesla, far less expensive transport will soon be an option for most.
I similarly praise another controversial political figure, Adam Kinzinger. Adam is one of two Republicans daring and principled enough to buck the Trump trend. He raises the ire of the rest of his party and isn’t welcomed by those who rightly resent and fear his party. And while his party is accurately labeled, as Noam Chomsky writes, “the most dangerous organization in human history,” it also is based on decent principles like individual responsibility and loyalty to family and country. My dad and uncle were Republicans, and lots of other decent people are too. But it has grown steadily worse, from Nixon to McConnel, to the point of attacking democracy and society with violence and lies. I deplore what they have become. Though buying into some of their stances, at least Kinzinger has the balls to confront their obviously naked king. Give credit where it is due.
Why? Because it’s good and getting better.
These years of smoke-filled skies daunting our already daunted spirits due to covid restrictions and trouble will pass. We need leaders who will accept the will of the people in getting past a near insurrection in the midst of covid hassles against the backdrop of global heating. Such leaders will respond when we make them and support them. To do that, we need to stay as positive as we can in our personal and political lives. Positive Psychology isn’t just for our private betterment, it’s for all of us.
How to sum this up?
A local online group called NextDoor Neighbor had an entry showing a painting of Jeff Bridges portraying The Dude in the movie “The Big Lebowski,” leading me to comment – because it’s good and getting better,
“More Dude; less rude.”
Another great article, Byron Bradley.
Just watched the Gates video… it’s rather depressing, but in the end I felt like I am already doing the things they recommend: I vote, I do not eat ANY animal products, I hardly ever fly, and I hardly ever drive (can’t afford electric car but would get one if I could).
We each do what we feel called to do and that we can. I found the video to affirm any and all efforts. “Little drops of rain. Little grains of sand. Make a mighty ocean and a pleasant land.” I admire your efforts, Teja, especially your dedication to vegan.