Probably I’m still yearning to live inside the lovely, fragile bubble of my four weeks in Vermont. But the other day, as I was driving down the street in the late afternoon light, my radio tuned to NPR, something happened. The report was about Malala, the young Pakistani girl nearly killed by the the Taliban, and about the choice of Mullah Fazlullah, who ordered the attack, as the Taliban’s new leader. This is bad news indeed, and what it means for the future was being anlayzed within an inch of its life. I tried to listen, the way I always do, but that afternoon something inside me turned. I heard myself say, “No,” out loud, and I snapped off the radio.
And then I just drove, slowly, looking out the car window at all the things to which I could say “Yes.” Yes to the children walking home from middle school, jostling in loud, silly packs, or trudging alone. Yes to the small stocky girl who broke into her own private, spinning, finger-popping dance on the sidewalk. Yes to the streak of black cat in the golden leaves, Yes to the child’s tiara, a souvenir of Halloween, hanging from the crook of a little tree, Yes to the signs for our school levy, Yes to the flock of fat robins resting in a crab apple tree, Yes to the little girl in a Superman cape, yes yes yes to all the goodness and hope and illogical exuberance that make up the texture of life. just as surely as grief and loss and treachery.
In the fat folder of notes I have for my next novel, there’s an old newspaper clipping about how, despite our natural optimism, it’s easier for us humans to recall past bad emotional events than good ones. Probably there’s some evolutionary logic to that, and it’s also pretty interesting from a literary perspective–a single act of lying, for example, can destroy a person’s reputation.
But if it’s true that the bad is stronger than the good–why do we persist in believing the opposite? Why are we always striving to deny it, to right it? There must be some survival instinct at work there, too. And if it’s true, it means our tired old world needs a lot more good than bad.
By the time I got home I was saying it out loud. “Yes, yes, yes.” A small word, a small voice, a small dent in the darkness.