Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Chicken Little.

Some days, more often now than ever, it seems like trouble is lurking around every corner.

From April 1, 2007 through April 1, 2008, this past year has been chock-full of personal and public stories of harrowing paths. Whether it's our own family that has suffered, a friend who suffered loss, a story of California parents that lose all of their young children in a car wreck, Virginia Tech, deadly tornadoes, poisonous Chinese-made toys, the mortgage crisis, global warming, termites—ugh—the list goes on. So many threats that are entirely out of our control. Things that are impossible to predict or prevent.

For us, I've been waiting a year for the other shoe to drop. What next? What more? I've half-looked above me as I've stepped out of the house in the mornings thinking there might be a falling piano, because, indeed, it can feel like the sky is falling.

Have courage.

Make no mistake, courage is not something we're born with. We are simply born with the potential to develop it. We develop it, or rather, circumstances develop it in us, like a photograph, like acid poured all over us to make something marvelous appear. And courage is much, much, much more than hope or positive thinking. Courage is action, even if it's just the act of deciding. Courage is the ability to proceed knowing that the path is not easy. The path is likely fraught with menacing, talking trees that throw fruit at you. The path may lead you in a direction that you never imagined, throw you into the fire, bash you against the rocks and leave you with barely a breath, ragged and scarred. The path will test your mettle, test your body and test your faith.

Have courage.

Because it isn't your fault. Because life isn't fair. Because not everyone gets to have everything. Because in the very, very end it will all be okay. Because we're in better hands now.

To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.

What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places – and there are so many – where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.

And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.

Howard Zinn

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