Thursday, September 4, 2014

Cynicism Suspended

I passed by a laid-back colleague yesterday and said a quick, "hello" as we crossed paths in a hallway at work.

He responded with the familiar rhetorical, "What's going on?"

Nine times out of ten I don't give that question much thought. It's less a question and more the equivalent of someone saying "Hello" or "How are you today, fellow human?"

But this was one of those occasions where the everyday, or the mundane, turned salient and impossible to ignore. There's literally so much going on it's tough to know where to begin. 
Oh, is it?

Terrorism. Russia and the Ukraine. Syria — and the Middle East in general. Ebola has likely spread to Nigeria, just as an insurgency is heating up there. 

I'm a curious fellow and I try to stay abreast of the news but, lately, it seems that significant events are coming faster and faster. At times, keeping up is like trying to get a drink from a firehose — overwhelming and comically hopeless. 

And that's just the headlines from across the globe. 

If you want tough news that hits closer to home, you rarely have to look further than your Facebook news feed. 

Or, just look out your windshield while driving. 

To wit, on her way to pick up the boy from day care yesterday, Mrs. Blackwell got cut off by a car while approaching a stop light. Seconds later, a police car swooped in and the occupants of the offending car got out and proceeded to flee the scene on foot. Police gave chase and an altercation between officers and one of the occupants followed, as Mrs. Blackwell and other shocked motorists watched.

Miles away but just a few minutes later, on my way home from work, I happened upon the scene of a car accident in which one vehicle t-boned another. Both cars appeared to be totaled and I could not be sure as to either driver's condition. 

Seems like as good a time as any to be thankful or grateful for, well, anything right? 

And so it was that I walked in the door last night thankful for little more than simply being home and being well. 

We had a quiet night and ate dinner together at our kitchen table.

A couple of peaceful hours later, Mrs. Blackwell and the boy were upstairs, winding down and preparing for bed. I was in our bedroom when Mrs. Blackwell gave me a shout. 

"Come here, you need to see this!" she called. 

I went in the room where she sat on the rocking chair with him on her lap, holding the book, 'What a Wonderful World,' featuring lyrics to the song popularized by Louis Armstrong.

I then sat back and watched as Master Blackwell sang each and every word, as his mother slowly turned the pages. 
He can't annunciate each word yet, which made it even better really.

"I see babees kwy. I watch dem gwoh."

My natural state is one of pure, unfettered cynicism. That's an admission, not a point of pride and it's likely a symptom of what many people suffer from in that we just don't ever want to be guilty of thinking everything is A-OK, when it's not. 

That said, I could have viewed this scene as ironic. (Perhaps picturing video footage of carpet bombings in Viet Nam to accompany Louis' voice.) 

But, there was no irony here. Just a two-year-old boy (as cute as possible if I do say so myself) sitting, reading and singing a beautiful song. Funny. If you take away the smart phone, the flat screens and the tablets, things can start to look better almost right away. I just need to remind myself that it's not a bad thing to give those good things top priority — at least for a little while. 


Janice said...

You write a great blog Mark, I am really enjoying reading it. Hope to see you some day.

Janice Nightingale
( your mother's cousin, LOL ).

Blackwell said...


Great to hear from you. It's been far, far too long. I've yet to make it out to BC (ever). It's gotta happen and when it does, we're getting together.

Ditto, if for any reason you ever find yourself in my neck of the woods.

I hope you're well.


Blackwell said...
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Deborah Appleton said...

Your Mother in law posted this on her Facebook page. I went to school with her...After reading this post I understand her pride in you! What wonderful insight you have. So many times in our lives we get so busy looking at all the negative in the world that we miss the greatest joys. Thank you for reminding me of this.

Blackwell said...

Thanks so much for the kind words Deborah. They're much appreciated.

Keep reading and I'll keep writing.

Unknown said...

I'm an old friend, and I do mean old, of your Mom and Dads. Enjoyed your blog. Some days I look at the headlines and wonder what kind of world I'm leaving to my grand kids. Most of the time, I shove my cynical self aside and trust good will always triumph over bad.