The good and the bad

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We have a wealth (also known as a glut) of information around us and in the news. There will always be something terrible happening that we can read about. Horrible people do horrible things. Nature does horrible things. Horrible things randomly happen. In generally things are improving despite what the news cycle tells us. People’s behavior is improving (see Angels of Our Better Nature by Steven Pinker) and fewer people are dying around the world from preventable or treatable diseases (see Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation). In general, things are improving yet we can still overwhelm ourselves with all the stories of evil.

Balance in this area seems to be difficult. One one hand we do not want to be in an isolationist bubble. We want to be aware of what is going on around us. However we also should keep ourselves focused on the good, those things that might not be news but are encouraging. As Philippians says “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.”

Any idiot can be a downcast “realist” by thinking about all the bad things that are going on and all the bad things that could happen to them. It takes far more work and discipline to engage in the important struggles of the day while maintaining an attitude of gratefulness and an optimistic outlook. In general, if it is something you can directly change, engage with it. Otherwise move on to the causes that you can directly change. The idea that feeling sad or indignant or angry or dwelling on bad things in the world is, by itself, a virtue is poorly formed. Dwelling on these things without action means nothing. Be intentional about being grateful for the good and actively work to improve the bad.

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