Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Candle

Please believe me—I do not want to become a bitter old man muttering oaths under my breath and swiping at passing children with my cane. But I am sincerely growing increasingly concerned about how bitter I am becoming. I don't want to turn into a nasty curmudgeon people cross the street to avoid. But it's like being in quicksand: the harder I try to free myself, the further in I sink.

Perhaps it is just that bad things weigh more heavily on the mind and sprit than do good things and tend, with every passing year, to become more and more the consistency of hardening concrete.

How can I—how can anyone—escape being aware that we are becoming a society utterly consumed by a pathetic fascination with the rich, the beautiful, and the famous? Our worth as individuals—often in our own eyes—is measured against those three criteria: wealth, beauty, and fame. A "celebrity" suffers a hangnail and the world gasps in horror and shock. Flowers and messages of support pour in. Mary Jenkins, a supermarket clerk in Olathe, Kansas, is brutally murdered in her home in front of her children and the news doesn't make it past the next county.

Have I been under a rock for the past ten years? Who the hell are these people who rule our popular culture--these preening, posturing poseurs whose unknown talent totally escapes me? What constructive, positive things have they ever done to help improve humanity? Why should their peccadillos, their divorces, their scandals interest me in the least? (Well, they don't, of course, but surely, surely I have to be missing something, somewhere!)

Why are we glued to "reality" shows—awash in vacuous young rude, obnoxious foul-mouthed—but filthy (the operative word) rich bimbets and with flawless skin and perfect teeth but with a heads so hollow you can almost hear a the wind whistling between their ears—which couldn't possibly be farther from reality? Why do people listen to—and far, far worse, obviously totally believe—the purveyors of ignorance, bigotry and hate posing as "political analysts," pundits, and talk-show hosts on egregiously un-fair and un-balanced media like Fox News?  (Actually, Fox occasionally displays some bitter humor. You can be sure, for example, if, when reporting on a home-grown terrorist, they discover that the perpetrator's great grandfather had voted Democratic in the 1928 election, it will be brought out as incontrovertible evidence of guilt.)

The problem is that it is so hard not to be bitter when things that should be so simple and self evident are twisted and skewered and turned inside out at the whim of anyone with a perceived axe to grind. Becoming bitter is a particular danger for romantics, who really want and fully expect to see goodness and courtesy in others and who never really develop the rhinoceros hide most people don in order to deal with the world. The more one yearns for a world of puppies and cocoa with marshmallows, the more prone one is to be disappointed and hurt by gratuitous evil. 

The seeds of bitterness grow slowly, but the trees that spring from them are almost impossible to fell. And worst of all, there is no joy, or hope, or promise in them.

And yet, for all my very real concerns, for all my inability to comprehend why the world works the way it does, or why there is so much soul-crushing stupidity and bigotry and greed and so little compassion and common courtesy, there remains, underneath the accumulating layers of cynicism and distrust which threaten to smother me, the belief in good and our ability to somehow...somehow reverse all this negativism; to somehow put the genie back in the bottle.

And as long as humanity has hope, however unrealistic it may seem, we will survive. For in the raging tempest of existence, hope is our one small, inextinguishable candle providing a beacon in the vast night.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (, which is also available as an audiobook (


Kage Alan said...

The news of these people exists for very, very simple reasons; someone is making money off it and someone is getting ratings from reporting it. The more money they make, the more stories like it we'll see. The higher the ratings, the more money that can be made.

I'm seeing a pattern...

Lena Grey said...

Very thought provoking post. I wonder about the same things you do and as I get older, they concern me even more. Maybe because I was raised in the 50s when life was simpler and in some ways, unjust, but we still had pride in our country and a loyalty to it. We always bought American and wouldn't consider not even if it were cheaper to buy somewhere else. I feel sorry for people now who think money and sensation are the only things of value. Thanks for speaking out, Dorien. I'll always listen.

Beverley said...

I think there is always that still small voice of hope. The curse of the money man/(non)celebrity/reality culture is our century's Pandora's box and never more was Warhol's 15 mins of fame quote truer. Television moguls have told our children that just being famous is the epitome of success. They didn't say you had to do something credit worthy to get the fame. Even worse they made those who are not 'famous' feel as thought they had failed in someway. Creating a generation of dissatisfied people unwilling to actually strive for success.