Samuel Johnson, that great man of letters and heavyweight of good sense in eighteenth century England, commonly said the people whom we should most beware in the world are those who constantly insist on finding fault, those whose clouds are never lit by silver linings, those who everlastingly “refuse to be pleased.”
I am often reminded of Sam Johnson’s suspicion of such people and their moanings and gnashing of teeth when I read the newspapers or look at the news and commentaries and interviews and panel discussions on our TV channels. And I fear it is all much the same in other countries around the world. Blight and despondency stretch as far as the eye can see. The litanies of misery and human perfidy, on this side and that, are unrelieved by even the faintest evidence of life being nudged in the right direction. Intentions are always bad, efforts always flawed or corrupt, the half-filled glass is always draining towards the sourest dregs.
In danger of losing ourselves in the endless lamentation and grim caterwaul of the reportage all around us, let us not lose hold of the sweet positives of life. In his columns Dave Martins, without for a moment denying the frustrations which face those who live and try to get things done in Guyana, often makes a point of reminding us of the good things, the fine people, the able and willing craftsmen, the vivid and varied beauty we encounter in this land, the fun and excitement and joyous and life-enhancing celebrations which often enough are to be found around the next corner. He is absolutely right to so remind us. He himself is a huge positive in the nation.
The lives of nations are full of setbacks, wrong turnings and dismal and even tragic and terrible events. And the lives of men never lack for distress and frustration. There is more than enough state disaster and individual misery if you look around. That is true and should never go unconsidered or be Panglossed over as we strive to live well and do better in private and in public forums. But surely that is not the whole story. There is so much beauty in Guyana, so much has been achieved, there is no country in the world with greater promise. Dreams and great plans can be fulfilled here I am quite sure. And in our individual lives surely all is not as bad as beings from the moons of Saturn might be led to believe if they just picked up the signals streaming through space from this land seemingly so horror-struck.
In the end there is more love than hate even though hate is given more publicity. I absolutely believe this. If it were not so life long ago would have become extinct. Who will deny that amidst the hells revealed in the headlines scores upon scores of thousands of individuals, families, friends daily enjoy the facts and fruits of love and that life is good because of that? The individual experience of love multiplied a thousand fold day by day describes the truth better than the wasteland we are instructed to believe surrounds us on every side.
Finally, do not refuse to be pleased by who you are. Do as Derek Walcott advises in his poem “Love After Love”:
The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread, Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.