“The optimist is a better reformer than the pessimist; and the man who believes life to be excellent alters it most. It seems a paradox, yet the reason of it is very plain. The pessimist can be enraged at evil. But only the optimist can be surprised at it. From the reformer is required a simplicity of surprise. He must have the faculty of a violent and virgin astonishment. It is not enough that he should think injustice distressing; he must think injustice absurd, an anomaly in existence, a matter less for tears than for a shattering laughter.”

G. K. Chesterton

The world is a beautiful place.

No, stop, and think about that for a moment or two. When did you last think that thought? What inspired you to it? You know, the moments when you really feel alive, and glad of it. Gradually, I realised that I didn’t just experience those at random. Of course, glorious sunsets and breathtaking mountains provoke them. But I found I felt them very strongly when I needed to. When looking across at the Gareloch from the hill above Faslane — the nuclear submarine base where Britain stores its destructive power but which, the day it is smashed away, will leave behind the green-and-purple of the classic Scottish water-valley view which I saw, somehow intact beneath it all; somehow because it is stronger. And when watching the last great oak finally give way for the Newbury bypass. When watching David Niven shrinking from hero to the man confessing his life as a fraud, at the moment of his expected death, in Paper Tiger. Or even watching re-runs of Top of the Pops and reflecting on the sadness of growing older and letting dreams fade just because of not being “the beautiful people” anymore. Then realising, remembering, it doesn’t have to be that way.

The beauty that shines through corrects the sadness. At its least it can raise despair to mere melancholy. At its best it opens the mind and the eye to infinity; that stunning comprehension of the holistic inter-conectedness of all things, in a way that only great scientists are supposed to be allowed.

But that’s the half of it. With time and the daydreams of the subconscious it comes to you; this isn’t an attitude to use like armour to protect us from the world. It is the world. There’s no better way to enjoy every day (never mind just dealing with them) than to really believe in something like this. It’s a beautiful place. There’s suffering, stress, pain and sadness, but we’re here to fix that. Everything can be “sorted out” — we just have to believe in it, and in ourselves enough. The injustice cruelty and madness in the world can so many times be attributed to fear. Insecurity motivates all kinds of evil systems that lead the rest of the social decay we call civilisation. Capitalism itself feeds not on greed – that’s just the symptom – but on fear of insecurity and instability.

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