Do you know the primary purpose of romance writing? Romance gives hope. Not just today’s romance, which runs the gamut from sweet, chaste discovery of new love to erotic passion with no real love at all. It is also the romantic writers of the past, who chose to focus on the beauty of the world around them or the ideals of love and devotion. Romance lifts readers out of their weariness with the slings and arrows of their lives, and gives them hope that, maybe, there are wonderful, beautiful things that, maybe, can offer a happier, more contented way of living.
Below are are the words I have taped to my computer, to remind me of the gift that life is. When you take the time to reflect on these things, you can see that there is much in the world to be hopeful about:
Whatsoever things are true,
Whatsoever things are honest,
Whatsoever things are just,
Whatsoever things are pure,
Whatsoever things are lovely,
Whatsoever things are of good report;
If there be any virtue, and if there be any praise,
Think on these things.
What are those things? I confess that even I have had trouble finding them lately, but let’s look for them together.
There are truly those among us who truly feel led to lives of service and selflessness. We have certainly seen evidence of that in these days. We are celebrating the healthcare workers for their service during the Covid-19 crisis, but this is nothing new for them. Covid is not the first or only deadly virus nor even the most virulent. But they still go to work every day, caring for people that the rest of us want to forget. They have done so for centuries and will do so after we have long moved on to other concerns.
There are far more people who conduct themselves with honesty and integrity than deceit. If it were not true, we wouldn’t be so angry and irritated when people don’t do what they are supposed to, because that would be the order of the day.
Justice is a hard one because there is so much difference of opinion about its application. But when we see hard work rewarded, that is just. When we see the innocent protected, that is just. When we see a life of service celebrated, that is just. Something is just if it is guided by fairness and right, those things are all around us if only look. And, if we have done the first two, looked for what is, at its core, true and honest, we ourselves can behave in a just manner.
It is really hard for humans to be pure. Our brains are so developed that we approach every situation from a variety of angles and tend to chose the one that works out best for us. Even self-sacrifice can sometimes be motivated by a desire to be recognized. It is very hard to get out from behind your own eyes and do something purely because it is the good or right thing to do. One of the blessings of Covid, however, is that so many of us have been called to service for no other reason than we want to help. Most of that has gone unrecognized because there is too much of it to report. Think about that for a second... The news has all the bad stuff because those incidents are so obvious and easy to recognize. They have to take the same bad stories and repeat them over and over because there aren’t enough of them to actually provide new material. The incidents of good things are too overwhelming to show them all. How do you choose what to highlight when there is so much?
Loveliness is easy because it is everywhere. This is where we are letting our children down by taking art and music out of the schools. Artists see the beauty in the simplest of things and always have. The remarkable structure of the human body. A child playing with a puppy. The stark loveliness of a branch when all of its leaves have fallen, and how it implies the coming of spring and renewal of life. And music! What is there to say about sound that makes the spirit soar, or understands our sorrow? Lovely, indeed.
What is good report? It is very simply things being done right. I will complain to anyone who will listen about Comcast and AT&T, but let me tell you about the guys who came on Tuesday to fix my dryer. Pleasant, professional, talented with the workings of the machine, great service for a reasonable price, and welcome in my home any time. I guess if I give free press to the bad guys, I should do the same for the good. Appliance EMT in Buford, GA. They also had the good sense to hire Paul as a technician, and I am sure the young man he was training will be just as good.
Virtue is not a really popular concept any more, is it? What was once defined as virtue is often under-valued today, and yet, given its truest definition–moral excellence–does it have to be? Are you virtuous? Am I? Do we focus on the things listed above–truth, honesty, justice, and purity? Do we celebrate loveliness in all its forms, both physical and spiritual? Do we strive to report on the good that we see, instead of pointing out the bad? I need a little work on this one. How about you?
Praise is also a hard one for us these days. It is so much easier to be critical. Why is that? Because when we are critical of someone else, we imply our own superiority of behavior. I am not talking about Oscar or Medal of Honor winners. I am talking about a mother who gives her children all the love she has down to her very core, but she can’t remember to get them to soccer with their cleats. I am talking about a person who is overweight, but who can give you the greatest suggestions for a superior experience with food. I am talking about someone who may not keep their car washed, but drives that car a thousand miles to see a friend. This is one I have to work on, too, but when I do it, it actually brings me great joy. To know that I have helped someone see their strengths instead of weaknesses–that is a joyous experience for us both.
So there you have it. Let me tell you, that when I started this post I had no idea how I was going to find anything positive to write about. But I know that anger and hatred only hurts me and doesn’t help anyone else, and it a total waste of good living time. Because I wanted to provide a respite for you, my reader, from the horribleness of the news, I myself had to look for the positive things to think on, and so have had a catharsis for my own despair and anger. It may not last, but at least I can come back to this post and feel more hopeful.