Pollyanna had it right. I know, I know. People make fun of Pollyanna. They think she is immature, short sighted, and ignorant of the cynicism required by our educated society. But I think that is because they don't understand her process of thought (and of course, I do). She didn't deny the sad, hard things. She didn't pretend that everything was alright when it wasn't. She simply had the knack for finding the hope in the middle of the mess. And in the scenes toward the end of the movie, when Pollyanna had lost her gift of gratitude, the people who loved her guided her back to her natural inclination.
I know people who are addicted to crisis. Who really hit their stride when the multitude of bad things happening in this world confirm their belief that we are all going to hell. And I am talking about the very real, incontrovertible hell that is right here on earth for millions. Even if you don't believe in a place of everlasting fiery brimstone, the smell of sulfur wafts strong from the evil at work today. Even Pollyanna would not try to say something positive about beheadings. She would cry about it, as we do. But after the tears were shed, I think that girl would get to work. Do something, anything to make the place she occupied in this world a better place.
What good does cynicism do? Does it make us more compassionate? More altruistic? Or does it just make us think we know more than the common Pollyannas who believe in the inherent goodness of mankind, of the earth, and this short time we get to walk here? I am arguing that a fatalistic view is a partial view. That wholeness only comes with gratitude. I suppose I argue for Pollyanna because I can't imagine wanting to remain here if I believed that life sucks. Always did, always will suck. I do believe that there is something at work in the cosmos that makes waking up each morning a gift. It is part of my deepest, most primitive self who has been in me since birth, this belief in goodness. The power of good, the power of people who do the work of honesty, courage, creativity, self sacrifice. I call the power behind that goodness God. I feel the call from outside myself, and I believe that the very best part of me and every other creature is where God dwells. Lots of people who do the work of goodness call the power something else. I don't care, I don't think I have a corner on truth. What does matter to me is that we lift each other up. That we hold on to the hands that reach out from the depths of despair. That our desire to appear intelligent and educated never makes us hard, encased in the steel cocoon of cynicism.
Our desire to draw life in black and white makes us stereotype and label people who have different solutions than we do. I hear the hubris in the voices of those who argue their political views. As if all the problems we face will disappear if only the right party is in charge. Hubris is one thing, but we cross the line when we demonize the opposition. It leads to a chasm between good people.
All the problems of our society...even Pollyanna would admit that we will never get it totally right. But she would not make the mistake of becoming apathetic about it. She would look for ways to be a light, to be a worker for good. I'm rooting for the girl. I'm rooting for the spirit of gratitude to infuse us all, to inspire us to be a more unselfish, a more good-centered society. This isn't a Disney life. If it were, no children would die of cancer, no people would go hungry, no terrorists of any ethnicity would prevail. Yet, there is hope in the center of the mess. Hope in the good deeds done by many, by any. Hope in the hearts of those who console. I can't think of anything more needed today than hope.