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Evil Is Boring

excerpted from PRONOIA Is the Antidote for Paranoia

When an old tree in the rain forest dies and topples over, it takes a long time to decompose. As it does, it becomes host to new saplings that use the decaying log for nourishment.

Picture yourself sitting in the forest gazing upon this scene. How do you describe it? Would you dwell on the putrefaction of the fallen tree while ignoring the fresh life sprouting out of it? If you did, you'd be imitating the perspective of many modern storytellers, especially the journalists and novelists and filmmakers and producers of TV dramas. They devoutly believe that tales of affliction and mayhem and corruption and tragedy are inherently more interesting than tales of triumph and liberation and pleasure and ingenuity.

Using the juggernaut of the media and entertainment industries, they relentlessly propagate this covert dogma. It's not sufficiently profound or well thought out to be called nihilism. Pop nihilism is a more accurate term. The mass audience is the victim of this inane ugliness, brainwashed by a multibillion-dollar propaganda machine that in comparison makes Himmler's vaunted soul-stealing apparatus look like a child's backyard puppet show. This is the engine of the phenomena I call the global genocide of the imagination.

At the Beauty and Truth Lab, we believe that stories about the rot are not inherently more captivating than stories about the splendor. On the contrary, given how predictable and ubiquitous they are, stories about the rot are actually quite dull. Obsessing on evil is boring. Rousing fear is a hackneyed shtick. Wallowing in despair is a bad habit. Indulging in cynicism is akin to committing a copycat crime.

Most modern storytellers go even further in their devotion to the rot, implying that breakdown is not only more interesting but far more common than breakthrough, that painful twists outnumber vigrous transformations by a wide margin. That's just absurd disinformation. Entropy does not dominate the human experience. Even factoring in the misery in parts of Africa and the Middle East, the Global Bad Nasty Ratio never exceeds 50 percent. And here in the West, where most of you reading this live, the proportion is lower. Besides that, the fact is that a vast majority of the people on this planet love to be alive, and the preponderance of their experience is a YES, not a NO.

Still, we at the Beauty and Truth Lab are willing to let the news media fill up half their pages and airwaves and bandwidths with poker-faced accounts of decline and degeneration, misery and destruction. We can tolerate a reasonable proportion of movies and novels and TV dramas that revel in pathology. But we also demand EQUAL TIME for stories about integrity and joy and beauty and bliss and renewal and harmony and love. That's all we ask: a mere 50 percent.


I vividly recall one of the shocks that incited me to head in the direction of pronoia. While perusing the front page of my local daily newspaper some years ago, I was startled to find a tiny oasis of redemptive news amidst the usual accounts of reeling turmoil. It reported that inner cities all over America were undergoing a profound renaissance. From Los Angeles to New Orleans to Boston, the poorest sections of town were becoming markedly safer. New businesses were opening, capital was flowing in, neighborhood clean ups were proliferating, drug sales were decreasing, and people were relaxing on their front porches again.

I was amazed that such an uplifting story had cracked the media's taboo against good news. And yet its anomalous presence as an exception to the rule proved that the rule is virtually ironclad.

At this late date in the evolution of pop nihilism, the problem is not merely the media's relentless brainwashing. We of the mass audience have become thoroughly converted to the sadomasochistic vision of the world: so much so that we've almost lost the power even to perceive evidence that contradicts that vision. The good news is virtually invisible.

Even those of us whose passion it is to champion the cause of beauty and truth are in the early stages of fighting our blindness. We are retraining our eyes to see the emancipating truth about the nature of reality.


As we gather the secret stories of the human race's glories and success, the Beauty and Truth Lab doesn't spend much time on ho-hum data like, "Two thousand planes took off yesterday and all landed safely." We leave that to others with more patience. Our preferred evidence emphasizes the triumphs that have entertainment value equal to the bad nasty stuff.

We also want our good news to consist of more than reports about hurts being healed and disasters being averted. We celebrate the family of the deceased Israeli girl who gave her heart to be transplanted into a sick Palestinian boy, but we also want a front-page story about physicist Paul Ginsparg, who has revolutionized scientific communication by creating a free service for publishing and reading research reports on the Internet.

We cheer forest protection activist Odigha Odigha's successful campaign to preserve Nigeria's last remaining rain forests, but we want to hear more about George Soros, whose philanthropy has provided billions of dollars in support for intellectual freedom and democratic societies in more than 30 countries.

We honor West Virginia's Julia Bonds, who has made headway in her campaign to halt mountaintop coal mining before it turns more river valleys into waste dumps, but we also want sensational acknowledgment for Ruth Lilly, who donated $100 million of her fortune to Poetry magazine, even though its editors had rejected all the poems she had submitted for possible publication over the years.


I invite you to share with us the interesting good news you come across in your travels. Not sentimental tales of generic hope; not "Chicken Soup for the Soul;" not life imitating the faux Hollywood art of contrived happy endings; but rather crafty, enigmatic, lyrical eruptions of the sublime; unpredictable outbreaks of soul that pass Emily Dickinson's test for poetry: She said she always knew when she was reading the real thing because it made her feel like the top of her head was about to come off.

Feel free, too, to take up the cause of zoom and boom as you resist the practitioners of doom and gloom in your own sphere. Demand equal time for news about integrity and joy and beauty and pleasure and renewal and harmony and love. In your personal life, be alert for stories that tend to provide evidence for the fact that all of creation is conspiring to give us exactly what we need, exactly when we need it.

P.S. Part of our task is to hunt down and identify the interesting good news that's going on now. But we've also been charged with the job of creating the good news that's coming.


To buy PRONOIA Is the Antidote for Paranoia, the book from which the above piece is excerpted, go to Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

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