In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good.
From the last scene from True Detective:
I was thinking… it’s just one story… the oldest; light vs. dark.
It appears to me that the dark has a lot more territory.
Yea, you’re right about that… You’re looking at it wrong, the sky thing… Once there was only dark. If you ask me, the light’s winning.
(The final scene from the opening season of True Detective: Woody Harrelson & Matthew McConaughey. I’ve embedded the video of the scene at the end of this post. Read the dialogue from the final scene here).
So, if it’s just one story, light vs. darkness, then everybody has to choose a side.
“There are two kinds of people in the world,” so folks say. Optimists & Pessimists. (Yes, this may be oversimplification). And recent studies indicate that whichever you are is partly determined by genetics.
It seems to be my nature to fall on the pessimist side of the equation. You know, the things are so bad, and getting worse side. The problems are huge, and we’ll never solve them side.
My reading does not help me much. For every encouraging book I read – (here are two: Abundance, and The Extreme Future) – I have read too many books on the ongoing rise in poverty and inequality, and the climate change worst-case scenarios, and… well, the list is long.
In fact, it even seems like the good business books all in some way or another say, “here’s our problem,” and seldom do I feel that the proposed solutions are really going to truly “work.”
I thought of this as I read The Big Short and Flash Boys by Michael Lewis. Both books are kind of accounts of people who are out to “make a buck” even if it hurts many others in the process. People who are almost “inventors of evil.”
Now, “make a buck” is good. Doing so while hurting others in the process — not so good. You know: darkness. As I said, I tend to fall on the pessimist side.
But… maybe things are… better, and maybe things really are marching toward the better all along. After all, “once there was only darkness,” says Rust. Maybe the light is winning.
Here’s a line from Peter Diamandis, Abundance: The Future is Better than You Think — an optimistic line if ever there was one:
We will soon have the ability to meet and exceed the basic needs of every man, woman, and child on the planet. Abundance for all is within our grasp.
Paul Krugman seems to fall on that pessimist side of the ledger. He’s usually pretty gloomy. But he’s got a recent column of hope and light regarding the global warming challenge. Here’s an excerpt:
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which pools the efforts of scientists around the globe, has begun releasing draft chapters from its latest assessment, and, for the most part, the reading is as grim as you might expect. We are still on the road to catastrophe without major policy changes.
But there is one piece of the assessment that is surprisingly, if conditionally, upbeat: Its take on the economics of mitigation….
What’s behind this economic optimism? To a large extent, it reflects a technological revolution many people don’t know about, the incredible recent decline in the cost of renewable energy, solar power in particular…
Thanks to this technological leap forward, the climate panel can talk about “decarbonizing” electricity generation as a realistic goal — and since coal-fired power plants are a very large part of the climate problem, that’s a big part of the solution right there.
My friend, Larry James, CEO of CitySquare, spends his Thursday afternoons on the front porch of a vacant (abandoned?) house just south of downtown Dallas. He takes bottles of water for folks, and sits on a front porch of this vacant house, talking to his friends. Some, homeless. All, what we label as “poor.” A rainbow of colors and ethnicities.
He does this every Thursday!
Here’s a recent reflection from Larry (from his blog):
A key learning from two years on the street, almost every Thursday afternoon: human touch, affirmation and sincere appreciation bring people back from the dead.
As I’ve talked to my friends who have no place to call home, other than a makeshift campground under an interstate highway bridge–ironically, highways built to take most people home after work–I’ve learned the importance of touch and human expressions of kindness and love. In fact, it’s clear to me that the one thing we all desire is to be genuinely loved. That love involves respect, expressions of friendship and affection, and simple appreciation.
The street has taught me that “a pat on the back” is much more than an English idiom.
Love raises people from graves of hopelessness, depression, oppression and despair.
So, for the Easter season, he set up a little table, with an invitation to his friends. An invitation to share the Lord’s Supper.
As hard as our mean streets are, they aren’t hard enough to shake off our need for acceptance.
Lent gives way to Easter just as love opens doors to new life, often unexpected new life.
I’ve seen it again and again on the street.
I observed it again, even more powerfully, when I asked the simple question of those who passed by, “Friend, would you like to receive the Lord’s Supper? God loves you more than you can know.”
It is an invitation of inclusion, of solidarity, of light over darkness. And Larry would be the first to tell you that he receives as much light as he brings to his corner ritual. And whatever your faith (or no-faith), when you come down on the side of inclusion and love and human touch, you spread the light… And then the light may be winning, at least in your corner of the world, more than we thought.
We can all point to the bad in the world, pretty easily. But I remember watching a movie a couple of years ago: Enemy at the Gates. It is a gripping depiction of the battle of Stalingrad. Ebert included this line in his review: We see the early hopelessness… Things were beyond awful, and very dark — there, then. Not much light. Not much at all.
Things are bad in many places. But, just look at the total deaths in the wars throughout history, and you realize… things really are moving in the direction of the better – the light.
So, on this Easter morning, I guess my reflection for the day, my challenge for all, is that we come down on the side of the light. And that message is for me as much as for anybody. Pessimist Randy needs to remember that “once there was only dark.” Maybe corporations can be instruments of good. Maybe our technological advance can solve our problems. Maybe our “soft skills’ can help build up human beings in the workplace.
Maybe the light is winning, after all.
Here’s the full version of the final scene from True Detective. This link has a shorter version.