I’ve been feeling good today — lighthearted, actually. Although I often write (or at least infer) that I am happy, I am actually more contented than happy (since to me, being happy connotes a bit of giddiness perhaps). Being lighthearted is something else, though I’m not sure what the difference is except that today I feel . . . lighter . . . than I generally do.
Part of this feeling of lightness has to do with the blue skies and warm sun. Even a chill wind doesn’t offset the pleasure of an otherwise nice day.
Part of the feeling of lightness has to do with being out and about on foot. I’d run (walked, rather) an errand this morning, and I still felt strong, so I headed to the grocery store to pick up a couple of items. I was almost there when I felt a twinge in my right knee. [The right knee started out being my bad knee since I’d damaged it a few years ago doing ballet exercises. Then, after it healed, I woke one morning with the left knee out of kilter. That’s the knee — the bad knee — that caused me so much trouble a year ago. But now, the left knee seems to be doing better, and the right knee seems to be the bad knee. Sheesh.] I wasn’t worried about getting back home. The store is about a half a mile away, and I knew I’d make it back okay if I only picked up the two or three things I needed.
Another part of the feeling of lightness has to do with living in a small town. Because this is such a small town, I always seem to meet someone I know at the store, and today was no different. My friend offered me a ride, and because of my knee (and because my car issues have kept me from being able to do any real grocery shopping), I accepted. We had a lovely time wandering the aisles together (I even found pequin powder, a rare item I thought I’d have to order online), with her filling up one section of the cart, me the other.
When I got home, I still had that same feeling — the lighthearted feeling I mentioned above.
It seems odd to me that no matter where I am or what I am doing, I feel at home here, whether I am out walking, meeting people at the grocery store, or waving back at the folks who wave to me as they pass by in their cars. Sometimes I think I’m living in a fool’s paradise, but I never feel in danger. Nor do I know of a lot of truly bad things that happen here. Oh, there is petty crime, but any violence is with people who know one another, not stranger to stranger. People seem to look out for one another, to be casually friendly without being annoyingly in-your-face.
Mostly, I think, I feel good about this place because I’ve stopped believing in the Mean World.
The idea of Mean World Syndrome has been around since the 1980s and basically postulates that the more one watches television (and, since these are the internet days, the more one pays attention to social networking sites and online news sources) the more one comes to accept that the world is much meaner than it actually is. It’s no surprise that fearful people are more dependent, more easily manipulated and controlled, and agree more quickly to hardline safety measures. This sort of programming reinforces people’s worst fears, so they tend to react more quickly and more aggressively to slights. Even worse, people are hard-wired for compassion, and the Mean World Syndrome tends to circumvent that, so we end up with a cynical population rather than a compassionate one.
I think I first noticed this (without knowing the name of the syndrome) back when I was in the hospital after I destroyed my arm. That was one of those times when the whole country was up at arms (literally) about racism and immigration. But there I was, in a hospital, totally dependent upon people of various skin colors and nationalities, and they all seemed to get along, and all treated me well. In fact, the only negative comment came from a white nurse who said to another in my hearing, “Doesn’t she ever exercise?” The other woman said, “Didn’t you know? She fell after a dance performance.”
As you can see, the experience left me feeling almost as confused as my trip through the old south, where racial tensions seemed almost non-existent compared to the hype, and not at all like the aggression I was used to from those living in the gang-ridden area near where I had been staying in California.
I much prefer a Warm World View (nothing to do with global warming, and everything to do with feeling warmly about one’s surroundings and the people that inhabit those environs). I’m not naïve; I do know bad things happen — I have even experienced bad things — but I also know they don’t happen anywhere near as often as we are led to believe. That the bad things are real, doesn’t matter. When I was growing up, the world seemed safer, not because it was (to be honest, it wasn’t — we lived in a fringe neighborhood where our bikes were stolen, property was vandalized, and my brothers were beaten up). The difference was the relative lack, back then, of non-local news (world news was but a small subsection of the news), a relatively small media group, a relatively short period dedicated to the news. Now that the news media is huge and constant, so is the need for product. So something bad happening halfway across the country — or the world — is broadcast as if it is an immediate danger to us all and so creates fear in everyone.
I don’t watch the news — won’t watch the news even if I have an opportunity — for this very reason. I don’t follow news sources online, don’t participate in social sites except to post a link to this blog (in the case of Facebook, I post a link to a post that links to this blog, since I’m still considered persona non grata), and I shy away from any discussions of today’s issues. Those issues aren’t my issues. My issues are local. My issues contribute to a Warm World View, to compassion and calmness.
And yes, to the lightheartedness I feel today.
What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?
A fun book for not-so-fun times.
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