Happiness: It’s Hard Sometimes, But It’s Common Sense

Like many seniors, we here at Common Sense for Seniors follow the news. In fact, if you counted up the hours we spend with online newspapers, local newspapers, the evening television news, and the Sunday New York Times (print version), you might think we were a little obsessed.

The news these days, however, is enough to plunge any senior into a bout of pessimistic rumination.

How, may I ask just for starters, did racism get passed on to young people – despite all that’s been said and done over the past 50 years to promote tolerance, understanding, and racial justice? In July, in Charleston, a 21 year-old murdered nine people at an African-American church. A photo at his website showed him posing with a pistol and a Confederate flag. Just last week, a 19 year-old was arrested for using YikYak, a social media app, to threaten to murder “every black person I see” at the University of Missouri.

Where do young people get this stuff? The sad truth is that it’s been passed down to them, directly or indirectly, by seniors.

In Europe, the lessons of the loss tens of millions of lives in twentieth century wars seem to be fading. The European Union is weakening, and Britain will hold a referendum on withdrawing in 2016 or 2017. Right-wing, nationalist movements are on the rise in many countries. Meanwhile, a nuclear-armed Russia undertakes military adventures with evident enthusiasm, as its domestic political institutions slide backward into authoritarianism.

Paris is attacked by ISIS, a fundamentalist group that seeks to bring on Armageddon – an apocalyptic battle it expects to occur at an obscure desert village called Dabiq. ISIS goes in for video recordings of beheadings, and some call it “medieval.” Others argue that ISIS is giving the Middle Ages a bad name.

I used to specialize in African affairs, and could say more on that subject than most readers would be willing to tolerate. I’ll just mention that in Burundi, another round of Hutu against Tutsi slaughter may be building. It would mark the fourth such outbreak since 1972. Contemporary experts maintain that Africa is moving forward, but from Eritrea to Congo, and even South Africa, there is reason for doubt.

I could go on citing trends and events that make me wonder whether the world has made much progress over the course of my lifetime.  Global warming, for one. How about the Republican slate of presidential candidates?

Did I really believe, back in the day, that the times they were a-changin? I think I did.

And perhaps I wasn’t entirely wrong. Our first African-American president won a resounding re-election in 2012. The internet is a miracle, not least for seniors. There have been amazing medical advances and life expectancies are rising – except, alas, for middle aged white Americans.

Good news or bad, so much else in life brings me joy — friends and family; gardening, cooking, and the other pleasures of day to day life; a walk along the Erie Canal on a sunny November day. Somehow, happiness keeps winning out over pessimism.

Happiness is common sense. We only go around once in life, as they say, and we might as well enjoy it.


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