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Janie B. Cheaney: A remedy for despair

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WORLD Radio - Janie B. Cheaney: A remedy for despair

Looking for the good news happening all around


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MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Today is Wednesday March 6. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Myrna Brown.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Up next: WORLD commentator Janie B. Cheaney says there’s plenty of bad news these days. But the cheerful news is you may have more power than you think to “overcome evil with good.”

JANIE B. CHEANEY: Does the world seem a darker place these days?

Our major political parties look increasingly dysfunctional, and government increasingly incompetent. Israel is fighting for its life, Russia is flexing its territorial muscles, China is threatening East-Asian stability. Fentanyl deaths are rising, as is depression among the young and suicide rates among men beyond middle age.

And yet, when it comes to our everyday lives, most humans are living longer, eating better, enjoying more leisure time and wider opportunities. Why then do we feel so bad?

In the libertarian journal Quillette, philosopher Maarten Boudry describes “Seven Laws of Pessimism” that influence first-world gloom. For example: “The Law of the Invisibility of Good News.” Progress happens gradually while setbacks are often sudden and dramatic. This correlates with “The Law of the Velocity of Bad News,” reflecting the newspaper maxim “if it bleeds, it leads.”

Then there’s “The Law of Conservation of Outrage”: as safety and prosperity increase, so do a society’s expectations. But the outrage quotient remains the same for microaggressions as it was for violent assault.

“The Law of Awful Attraction” observes that people will find what they’re subconsciously looking for, especially in the age of algorithms that prioritize click-bait. Deluged with true crime and disaster stories, we fall prey to “The Law of Self-Effacing Solutions”—once a problem is solved, we move on to new problems (often created by the solution).

Number seven is “The Law of Disinfecting Sunlight,” or, “The freer a society, the more ugly things will surface.” The whippersnappers protesting on campus today don’t realize how far we’ve come on the racism front, just as the whippersnappers of my day didn’t appreciate the sacrifices our reactionary parents made during depression and war.

Psalm 4:6 echoes centuries of pessimism: “There are many who say, ‘Who can show us some good’?” Well, here’s some: On January 25th my husband developed an infection that quickly escalated to septic shock and kidney failure. By the time I called 911, his life was on the line. When the ambulance arrived, med techs got him on a gurney and hooked up fluids while still in our driveway. Immediately after arriving at the hospital, the ER team started antibiotics and blood-pressure medication. After three hours of tests, the doctor told me my husband needed constant monitoring, and no ICU beds were available locally. Someone kept calling until they found a place for him two hours away. Transport arrived early in the morning to take him there.

Today, my husband is alive and medically stable, owing to the speed, skill, and compassion of people who knew what to do. For all the troubling news, hundreds of hospitals churn out similar stories every day. Thousands of churches counsel the desperate, shelter the refugee, clothe the needy, while faithful pastors persevere in preaching the hope of the gospel though conflicts and failures.

Jesus said the kingdom of heaven is like a seed, small and hidden. But the seed will sprout and grow, however slowly, and the harvest will be massive. That’s good news.

I’m Janie B. Cheaney.


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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