The Voice of Experience: Modern way of life gives us more to worry about

Web Lead

This is 2014, hence: shootings in Ottawa, beheadings in Syria, refugee crises around the world, the Ebola epidemic, increasing bizarre weather occurrences, riots everywhere. Things to worry about.

I joke that my Scottish heritage is the origin of a certain “don’t be happy, worry” outlook on life. People like me can easily break the surface of a nightmare that has me wondering how our raft fared in the tsunami.

People born at the end of the Second World War, that is, anyone who is around 70 years old, missed that sad, worrisome time. Our parents were the ones who lost siblings and worried about getting along after it was all over.

What did we worry about that was anywhere near their suffering? As a young person, the first thing I remember worrying over (other than the usual social dilemmas) was the possibility of Russian missiles reaching North America from Cuba. My father assured us at the supper table that night in 1962 when the Cuban missile crisis was at its peak that everything would be fine. Saner heads would prevail, he said — at least, the heads willing to take a risk. And it was fine for that moment in time.

Remember the years of the bomb shelter. The buildup of nuclear arsenals and the Cold War led to other conflicts, but from the point of view of the disengaged citizen, this war was confined to secret agents, propaganda and clandestine government departments. It made for good reading with Len Deighton and John Le Carré. We did not even have a plan.

The hippie years affected many, not necessarily as consumers of hallucinogens, but in trying to live simpler lives, casting off the trappings of materialism and caring about all creatures. We were not inclined to worry. Nothing has been that simple since.

We worried about other people and other people’s sons, who were drafted to fight war after war. Closer to home our worries were to do with keeping our children healthy, getting a better job. For us the dangers were not close up and personal; the troubles were somewhere else.

We are not so far away anymore. I heard a radio host call it “the global interconnectedness we now enjoy.” Enjoy? The age of instant communication does not let us ignore what is happening far from our boundaries. It smacks us in the face daily with images of kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls who will never return to their homes. We can’t ignore the video footage of militant men with guns no matter where they operate, all the more frightening because they mask their faces. Images like this eat at the psyche and erode our optimism.

Worry is often softened by action, but not many are positioned to do anything calming on a global scale. A rare person among us will join Doctors Without Borders or build houses in ravaged areas or travel to trouble spots to save beleaguered animals.

The rest of us do what we can in our corner to balance the scale. The worries best dealt with are those within our grasp, and we choose what we can do in our communities to be a positive force. We put ourselves “out there” in local politics or work for charitable organizations or delight people with art, theatre, music. We serve on boards or in community halls, give time to families in distress or listen to a friend who needs someone to listen. These acts of involvement are antidotes to the bad news that is all around us.

This seems obvious, a cliché, perhaps, but getting above the worry is accomplished in all the usual ways.

We in Creston Valley filled out a survey — a small optimistic act — about what makes us happy living here, how satisfied we feel about aspects of our lives. How happy are we with our level of personal productivity? Do we trust our neighbours? Do the local officials pay attention to people? Do we have enough money to buy food? Do we have a feeling of belonging?

Sometimes we do have to sit down and list what is good about our lives.

And in the news today: A father in Fort Nelson has built a six-metre snowman in his front yard for the delight of his children. It took him three weekends.

Betsy Brierley lives beside Kootenay Lake. She used to write for the Advance a long time ago.