“Don’t worry. Be Happy.”
Easy to say. Hard to do.
With the disheartening, often frightening, challenges confronting us these days (and by “us,” I mean anybody who is alive and breathing, has a reasonable amount of basic understanding and a sense of human empathy), the world we live in is getting scarier and more disappointing by the minute.
Make that, by the second.
And for anybody who reads newspapers, news magazines, watches TV and/or surfs the internet, maintaining a reasonable amount of sanity — and not just giving up all hope that things will ever get better — is the challenge of this age.
So much so, that sometimes I hesitate to turn on the TV. Fearful that the next calamity delivered to us by NBC News’ anchor Lester Holt, or the outright lunacy (disguised as news) from any number of Fox News broadcasters will send me over the edge.
On just about any given day, it seems, there is an awful fire; tornado; mass shooting; kidnapping; horrible homicide; multi-car pileup; vicious attack on a man or woman of Asian descent; the body of a missing child found; politicians caught in horrible lies or faced with trial or jail sentences; hostile governments launching deadly rockets at one another, or threatening to; tons of illegal drugs intercepted; another housewife disappears; thousands of people die from the Coronavirus, because their nation can’t secure enough vaccine to save them.
And that’s the short list.
If that is not enough to make your heart sink, consider that just about everyday, there is a report of another shooting of an unarmed black man or woman by law enforcement officers in some American city or town. There are also way-too-many instances of police officers killed or wounded while carrying out their lawful duties. Many of them shot; some simply run over by those fleeing capture, or by simply inattentive motorists.
So much of this leads us to the matter of trust-destroying disagreements among us. While some are satisfied with court verdicts in cases arising out of many of these incidents, others violently disagree. Solutions offered by one set of “concerned” citizens and political leaders are shot down by others.
To make matters worse, there is a seemingly growing class of politicians and “community leaders,” who see ways to gain more power, prestige and money ( often campaign donations) by exploiting the differences among us, rather than working to bring us together.
Many distort — or exaggerate — the positions of opposing groups to harden the stances of the opponents. They figure there is political profit to be made in division, and, unfortunately, their gamble often pays off.
Right now, we are a bitterly divided nation, and a divided world. The old coalitions have lost their grip, making it more difficult for calmer heads and hearts to prevail.
At the very time when we need steadying, calming voices — and those willing to work harder to bring us together — more prophets of division politics are shaking the trees of mistrust, hoping political and financial fruit will fall.
Too many in the political arena are taking pages out of the playbook of former President Donald Trump, and his followers, and keeping the cauldron of discord boiling. They have dreams of taking up residence at the White House in Washington, D.C., or — at the very least — being the top man or woman behind the one who does.
Unfortunately, they believe the easiest — if not the only — way to get there is through Trump’s tactic of stoking fear, and offering his vision of an America driven by by race and class concerns, and the privilege of wealth.
So often these days — in the minds of many — that path is the Yellow Brick Road to American success and world dominance.
While in a deeply sad mood the other day, Bobby McFerrin’s upbeat song from the late 1980’s — “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” just popped into my mind.
I went quickly to You Tube and found a video of it that someone had posted. Not only did McFerrin sing the song as wonderfully as I remembered it, he was part of a three-person dance team whose comic antics made the performance even more lighthearted and uplifting.
I found myself singing along and “dancing” in my chair. What made it even better, was that legendary actor/comedian, Robin Williams, was a member of the dance team.
That video led me to one of Louis Armstrong singing “What A Wonderful World,” and to yet another precious one of Israel Kanakawiwo’ole performing a medley of “Over The Rainbow” and “What A Wonderful World.”
My soul and spirit were instantly refreshed. I couldn’t stop singing those songs in my head for the longest time. I was in such a pleasant mood, I skipped watching the evening news shows and went back to playing those songs until bedtime.
When I woke up the next morning, my first thought wasn’t: “I wonder what terrible things happened over night.”
It was to look out the window. I had the feeling there would be bright sunshine when I opened the curtains and blinds. And there was!
The next morning, too.
And I could still hear McFerrin: “In every life we have some trouble … But when you worry, you make it double. Don’t worry, be happy …
“Ain’t got no place to lay your head. Somebody came and took your bed …
“Don’t worry, be happy…
“The landlord say your rent is late … He may have to litigate … Don’t worry, be happy …”
I know this joy I feel right now won’t last forever. What does?
It’s highly likely I will soon return to my old, worried self. But right now, I’m riding with McFerrin, Armstrong and Kanakawiwo’ole, and I don’t notice any potholes in the road.
Don’t worry. Be happy.
If you can …