Graphite drawing: Self-Inflicted“Prepare for the worst but hope for the best.” It’s part of my credo, I guess, and may well have been aided in its development by doing those hilariously futile duck-and-cover atomic bomb drills of the Cold War era. And the air raid drills—we lived in a Ground Zero area near several military bases, strategic coast, and a handful of Nike missile sites in those days—fire drills, earthquake drills, tsunami drills, and later when we lived in the midwest, tornado drills. You’d think we’d all have grown up incredibly paranoid after such stuff in childhood. But I think that besides being remarkably resilient, kids use logic on such daily puzzles far better than they remember how to do when they hit adulthood and have been taught their prejudices, and are much more easily distracted and blinded by grey areas.

I don’t remember ever believing that crouching under a flimsy little wood-and-steel desk would save me even from the shrapnel of shattering windows and imploding walls in the event of an attack or large-scale disaster, particularly since I imagined the desk itself would become shrapnel along with everything else in the atomizing roar of a bombing. Little and naïve though we were, we had gleaned hints of the enormity of such things from our beginning school studies of the world history of war (skewed to our own culture’s view, of course); no matter how grownups think they’re shielding kids by sanitizing and limiting the information the wee ones are allowed to see and hear, children are quick to notice the blank spaces where redacted information interrupts the flow of facts, and no adult is more curious than a child to hunt for clues as to what was redacted. Frankly, if there really is any use for an institution like the CIA in this day and age when practically anyone can find out practically anything with the aid of easily accessible tools like the internet, cellular phone, and, apparently, privately owned drones, along with all of the more traditional tools of spy-craft, I suggest that the crew best equipped to uncover any facts not in evidence would probably be a band of children all under the age of about twelve.

Meanwhile, we still have large numbers of people who think it prudent to withhold or skew the information passed along to not only kids but even fellow adults, giving out misguided or even malevolent half-truths or remaining stubbornly silent and in full denial about things considered too dark for others’ knowledge. And what do we gain from this? Are there truly adults among us who still think that even smallish tots can’t quickly discern the differences between a fable or fairytale, no matter how brutish and gory it may be, and the dangers and trials of real-world trouble? Does delusion or deception serve any purpose, in the long run, other than to steer us all off course in search of firmer, more reliable realities?

As I just wrote to my dear friend Desi, it seems to me that the majority of humans always assume a fight-or-flight stance in new or unfamiliar circumstances before allowing that these might be mere puzzles to decipher, and more importantly, we assume the obvious solution to be that whatever is most quickly discernible as different from self IS the problem. Therefore, if I’m white, then non-white is the problem; if I’m female, then male. Ad infinitum. And we’re generally not satisfied with identifying differentness as problematic until we define it as threatening or evil. This, of course, only scratches the surface—quite literally, as the moment we get past visible differences we hunt for the non-visible ones like sexual orientation, religious or political beliefs, and so on.

Unless and until we can change this horribly wrongheaded approach on a large scale, we’ll always have these awful problems, from petty playground scuffles right into the middle of the final mushroom cloud. The so-called justice systems of the world are set up and operated by the same flawed humans who make individual judgements, so the cycle is reinforced at all levels. Sometimes it truly makes me wonder how we’ve lasted this long.

Can we learn from kids? The younger the person, the more likely to blurt out the truth, whether it’s welcome or not. The subtleties of subterfuge are mostly wasted on children, who unless they’re engaged in happy storytelling for purposes of amusement and amazement, would rather be actively puzzling out the wonders of life than mucking about in search of evasive answers and duck-and-cover maneuvers. We might gain a great deal by reverting a little to a more innocent and simplistic view of the universe, one that blithely assumes that others are not always out to get us, that direness and doom aren’t lying open-jawed around every blind corner, and that the great powers of the internet and cell phones might just as well bear cheery tidings of goodness and kindness, and drones be removed from deployment as spies and weapons to work instead at delivering birthday presents to friends and packets of food to hungry strangers.

I’m not fooled into thinking any of this is easy to do, any more than any savvy kid would be, but I’m willing to believe it’s possible if more and more of us will commit to such ideals.

11 thoughts on “PessimOptimism

  1. I remember the duck ‘n cover and air raid drills. I just hope if “it” happens that it just happens and there is no warning. Although….I need to purchase an earthquake survival kit! I keep forgetting. 😛

    • We always used to say that living at Ground Zero was better than not, since surviving Armageddon and nuclear winter, in whatever state of wholeness and health, doesn’t sound the least bit appealing. Everybody else dead, the infrastructure ruined, the earth poisoned, and all in a state of chaos and war??? NO THANKS. 😉 Earthquake survival kit: hammer, nails, screwdriver and anchors, and maybe a little museum putty, and you’re pretty much good to go. The one thing I learned more recently that’s very useful is that rather than heading *under* something (table or doorway), you should get *next to* something like a couch and crouch alongside, so that what does fall on you is levered up by the structure and you can survive in the triangular gap between. Even allows a bit of potential airspace, should an earthquake or tornado lay a bunch of debris or stuff on top of your little gap of safety. Interesting, no?
      Stay safe wherever you are, my dearest!

  2. What a particularly disturbing, and yet apt, illustration. I kid you not, sometimes visiting your blog is akin to taking a leisurely stroll through a well-appointed art gallery. You step in close, peering intently at every line placed on the paper, and then move away, viewing from differing angles. Each time you come back to it, something else catches your eye. An earring. A down-turned mouth. Extreme vulnerability. Eyes closed. A child, and yet, not. The uneven background, lending balance, even while drawing the eye from left to right, and up and down. And then, zoom in again, and examine the question mark, or is it simply a well-placed bit of shading? Intentional, or merely suggestive? The entire thing hurts, and yet soothes as well. Truly fascinating. Lovely.

    I remember, somewhere, (yearstricken’s blog, actually), that I once mentioned in a comment that reading their work caught me by surprise, in that, for once, rather than being consumed by the overwhelming wish that their words had sprung from my own fingertips, that I was simply bathed in appreciation for having found their space. It’s like that, sometimes, when I happen upon one of your pieces of artwork. Rather than covet the ability to produce such artistry, I’m just glad I’ve discovered your space in this vast world of blogging. It nourishes my soul, so, thank you.

    I think you are already acquainted, but if you don’t already know yearstricken, you can find her here:

    • What a generous and lovely thing to say!!! Thank YOU!! Yes, I’m a big fan of Yearstricken, too. Maybe that’s where we met!

      I can’t say emphatically enough how much it means that you notice every little detail and pay such generous attention to what I (and other fellow bloggers) post. You are a gift, my dear friend!


  3. Lots to think about here, Kathryn. I too remember the duck under my desk, and looking back yes how silly it seems. I just went through the worst disaster in my part of the world, one I am still reeling from. When disaster strikes, all you know how to do is to survive. It is when it is over you fall apart. One other thing. I leave you a Gift. IF you go over 15 tags per post, including categories, your post will not show in the WP reader. I noticed you have many more then 15 tags on this post, and being it as important as it is, I would very much like to see it and all your posts in the WP Reader. (((HUGS))) Amy

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