Monday, March 9, 2009

Hope and Fear

We spent the weekend in Chapel Hill, where UNC was playing Duke in a final men’s basketball game for the UNC seniors. All in all, it was a stimulating and entirely lovely weekend. Good conversations with our hosts, Val and Ric Steinbacher, and a lovely springtime feel in the air, with some cherry blossoms and other assorted flowering trees much in evidence on campus.

Walking around the campus on Sunday, and, observing the fresh excited faces of college students anticipating this big game, I felt refreshed--the now daily drumbeat of bad news from the Nation’s leadership and bad faith from the Nation’s not-so-loyal opposition is a true downer after all. All in all, we needed this dose of young life , excited about something beyond war and economic disaster visited upon all of us by the world’s economic malenfants.  And it was nice to be able to hear jokes expressed about college athletics as opposed to political idiocies.

We had much time to simply sit and chat, throughout the day and over a splendid meal at a lovely French provincial restaurant in Chapel Hill. The conversations invariably focused on these tough times. At one point, sitting in the living room, voicing our concerns and listening to theirs, I found myself thinking that we probably needed to change the conversation. I kept looking at their young teenage daughter, only half listening, as she sat with her I-Machine plugged into her ears. As I watched her, I thought, hmmm, maybe we really need to change the conversation. Will she become overly fearful, listening to our talk about the economic gloom and doom? Isn’t this like exposing your youngster to gory movies?

Then I relaxed bit, realizing that mostly, our conversation remained at a rational level, with at least some periodic expressions of hope—that there are opportunities mixed in with the challenges in this sea of troubles. People in different settings view the troubles from multiple points of view.  While sticking your head in the sand, and plugging your ears might work for a few, most thinking people need to express their outrage, their perplexity, and their hopes in rational settings, where fear mixed with hope provides some relief from the drumbeat of bad news. Even teenagers, I understood, need to understand that something serious is afoot in the land. That the world is more than I-Tunes and Facebook and that, whether the Jonas Brothers suck, or not, is largely irrelevant in the overall scheme of things.

It brought me back a bit to my own world as a child—WW II was going on, only dimly perceived by me. The Great Depression still had its grip on the land and the populace, although it was fading from view, driven out by other equally bad things and bad people. But throughout my childhood, I realized that somewhere, adults were dealing with these bad things. In some cases, the adults were far afield—FDR telling us things on our radio that I barely understood; Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia reading us the Sunday funnies over that same radio. I think I understood that we were going to be ok, despite all that gloom and doom, because some adults, somewhere would make it ok.  

Hopefully, our hosts’ teenaged daughter, only half listening, is thinking the same thing—“the world sucks at the moment, but the adults in my life are going to make it all ok again.”

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