It was a relaxing evening in 1995. My teenage daughter, husband, and I were each reading. Suddenly our daughter looked up from her People magazine and said, “There’s no class anymore! No quality!” Perhaps her magazine brought this reaction. Anyway, as we discussed her remark, we agreed. Things had gotten pretty tawdry in the world. Behavior, habits, clothing, conversation, people’s ideas and aims, treatment of others–all seemed to be sliding downhill. Quality appeared to be crumbling. That a teenager was seeing this disintegration was interesting.
Twenty-seven years later, the decline of excellence seems even more prevalent. Politics is one case in point with its crude, mean language, Congress’s attacks on colleagues and enemies and its inability to get anything done. But in other aspects of our culture, too, we see a disappointing norm–lying, cheating, stealing, immorality, greed, corruption, sordidness, degeneration, cheap talk and dress. Why? What has happened to the GOOD?
Isn’t GOOD something we all love and aim for in every category of life?
Striving for good–quality, excellence, merit, virtue in all things–may be hard work at times but it also energizes, uplifts, and celebrates life. Looking for good makes us joyful. Instead of being pulled into negative, substandard, inadequate, deficient, poor, bad, evil stuff–the opposite of good–we have the opportunity to look for and choose good in everything from how we look, speak, care, help, solve problems, take on ordinary tasks. We can turn around an ugly situation if we let good intervene. Serious concerns like a difficult work project, or dealing with an angry neighbor, or thinking about world events, or simple matters like setting a table, cleaning a room, weeding a garden, dressing with care–any choice, big or small, offers an occasion to experience some good. And one good choice usually leads to another.
If we wake up each morning grateful for one good thing, and then another, and then another, pretty soon we become enmeshed in good. We find good is part of us. We become inseparable from it. We celebrate good by bringing it to life in everything we do, with everyone we encounter.
Lately I’ve not done this as well as I might. The war, the pandemic, personal sadness over the need for more walls and clients for my burgeoning artwork, and aging’s few aches and pains, have caused me to wake some mornings in a gray fog. Some days I strike out against the gloom. Other days it envelopes me.
But then I see one good thing. Maybe it’s the croissants I made yesterday, golden under the glass dome in morning light. Maybe it’s my funny little dog staring at me, eager for his breakfast, or maybe its my husband’s quick sense of humor. It might be the six floral bouquets throughout the house (one can’t live without fresh flowers in every room!). Maybe it’s my favorite aqua turtleneck I pull over my head. Or the words I read in my morning spiritual study. I hear the wind chime in the yard, watch the breeze rustling in our tall pines, see through them down to the estuary where now a seagull perches on the large boulder that will soon disappear with high tide. These are all good things. Things to be celebrated. I need to remember that every day.
The world I want to live in is one where good is celebrated. I want to work for good. Even when I’m no longer here, I care deeply that good will be.
Artwork: One Day All the Colors Decided To Get Together and Celebrate Themselves, matted, 21″ x 22″, $875. With watercolor, pastel, pencil and more this piece came alive, full of joy, color, movement, good intent, eager to wrap the viewer in its jubilation.