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A small plea for optimism

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If all the superlatives have already been used up to describe breakfast with the children, how can you still feel connected to real world problems? When big words are used for small events, they make the big events indescribable.

This is different from making small events big, which I am a staunch supporter of. Big events, and descriptions of them, no longer exist in a way that appeals. Quick, smoothly written pieces get read (like this short, fun piece, of course). Going into depth and ruminating, no time lends itself to that.

A bigger problem, however, is that we are reasoning in the wrong direction. Where before the group, church, column or eight o'clock news was our frame of reference, where we could mirror ourselves, now we are our own frame of reference. Where we used to look from the inside out, we now look from the outside in.

We are the standard: Is there a killer in the Netherlands? Look at my little one when I go to bed; he's a real brute. Are millions of people fleeing away from a war zone? Just look at my grandmother when she has to wipe her own bottom because of a shortage of health care personnel; now that is a war zone. Our little problems are the world's problems. And we retranslate the world problems: from refugee to profiteer, from victim to poseur, and so on.

It is a pessimistic view of life and a positive view of navel-gazing. But what if we took a more optimistic view of life? Maybe we could turn it around: enjoy the little things and worry about the big ones. Not fussing in a meek, angry sense, but - to use Chesterton's words - laughing in amazement and disbelief. Is this what really happened? Then we ourselves, within our sphere of influence, can actually and concretely do otherwise. The sphere of influence, by the way, will then often resemble an oil slick; slowly but surely expanding.

The pessimists could hardly curse even the blackest thing anymore, for they could not distinguish it from its background. Nothing was bad because everything was bad. - G.K. Chesterton


Erwin de Ruiter

"One man tries to express himself in books, another in boots; both are likely to fail." - G.K. Chesterton

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