Don’t Get Mad; Get Creative II

by Rick on October 2, 2020

Orange sky at noon, my house was dark all day. Our world is over-heating! And that’s not all:
A million deaths from a flu virus worldwide,
Unemployment skyrocketing,
Storms of falsehoods,
Children in cages,
Murderous policemen,
Scourge of vigilantes,
Ku Klux Klan,
Civil discourse gone,
National leaders modeling the worst of human behavior,
Gangs of cyclones,
Frogs born with missing limbs,
A plague of murder hornets,
Epidemics of ignorance, anxiety, insomnia, depression, suicide,
…need I go on?

This seems to be the context of our lives, especially if we watch the news. It’s enough to make one wonder if moving to Canada is not such a bad idea.

But the context of human life has always been—what’s the right word—challenging? Yes, challenging.

One century ago tens of millions died of a flu virus, and tens of millions died in one war. Plagues have sometimes wiped out a third of a population. For centuries, war has been the rule, not the exception. Archeologists have learned that a “state of nature” was not some safe, happy time. Analysis of dead bones reveals that a person had a one-in-three chance of dying at the hands of another human.


Tens of thousands of years ago, an ice age killed most of the humans on the planet. The DNA of humans alive today has been traced to three women. Apparently, these women had the ingenuity to devise methods for keeping their tribe alive, and the social genius to keep them all together in their migration to a better place, toward a better time.

I’ve lost the reference for this research. Maybe, it’s a myth. However, even if it is a myth, it’s not merely a myth. Its meaning is now obviously correct. Today, we see this ingenuity and social capacity not just in three people, but in millions all over the world—humans inventing more and more sophisticated ways of bettering the context of lives by bettering the content.

The “nasty, brutish and short” (Thomas Hobbs 1651) lives of our distant ancestors made us creative inventors, not just of useful technologies, but of ways of getting along with each other. For most humans, today, life is not so short, nor brutish, nor nasty. Today, around the world, there are 81 cities with more than 5 million people in each, living more or less in peace—if not total harmony. How could this happen?


Making a friend has greater survival value that making an enemy. When people became citizens of cities, they began designing civility, gimmicks for being happy in a civil society. They became civilians. We keep inventing ways of surviving by inventing new ways of loving our neighbor—even new ways of loving members of our families.

We humans keep evolving—faster than most species. Two world wars taught us that we’re in this world together. Some of us didn’t get the message? Well, maybe a worldwide virus will give us even more experience working together …and force us to invent.

Today, you don’t have to move to Cambridge to go to Harvard. Millions from anywhere in the world can take the same course from a professor. Location matters less. The Grand Rounds of a few doctors at UCSF is now zoomed to millions in all five continents. Today, over 60% of 7.5 billion humans have smart phones.

Just as a virus keeps finding ways of using human bodies to maximize its life, so humans keep finding ways of optimizing human life. The terrible context of our lives is both depressing and motivating:
Individuals partnering-up with other individuals
Getting joy from solving the problems facing them
Changing the context by creating new content.

This is no time to stop. If you, or someone you know, is lonely, anxious, depressed, or thinking of moving to Canada, befriend them. Think of something you, two, can do that will make your lives and/or the world a better place.

These days, a pretty good use of your time might be finding someone in despair and writing poems together. Or, maybe, you could talk them into voting for someone who might lead a great nation toward making the world a better place. Suffer the context; change the content.











{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Lyn October 2, 2020 at 11:18 am

I especially love “making a friend has greater survival value than making an enemy.”

Matt Schwartz October 2, 2020 at 12:23 pm

Thanks for these inspiring words, Rick. Speaking of poetry, I’d offer this poem from my late stepfather, W.S. Merwin, which I find moving and inspiring in this moment:

Matt Schwartz October 2, 2020 at 12:25 pm

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: