Traditional media lives on terrible news [but not Happy Ali]. But so does man. We are all part of a tightly-knit network that connects us and holds us together, a structure whose threads could not differ more, and yet they invisibly tie more than six billion bipeds to one another.
Without this network, each of us would be left exposed to cold space and dull time without spirituality, without contact, without warmth. Purely surviving without meaning. Every one of us would soldier on, ticking off the days and years of the calendar of life without knowing why.
Nevertheless, it is because of this network that we feel the pain of those individuals or groups who suffer, and conversely feel inner joy at their success. We fret over sports whose outcome, whether a win or a loss, really matters not the slightest to us. We observe young lovers and lifelong partners, disputes and jealousy, faltering and triumph, and sense that our lives are also being lived through those of others. We empathise and worry as if our fate were on the line.
When a member of this planet’s large and rapidly-growing human community suffers, thirsts, hungers or falls victim to an accident or violence, every fibre in our body wants to help, wants to support him, save him. And if we cannot, we feel his pain, or guilt at our inability. No matter how far away the victims may be.
The more tangible the suffering, the greater our sympathy. Because individuals that we are, we can better recognise ourselves in them.
What makes this worldwide network of sympathy yet more wonderful is that it also includes nature. When global warming threatens to wipe out the polar bear, even the dumbest earthling comes to his senses.
The mere fact that it is not every man for himself, but rather that we also sympathise with the lives of others, forms the most wonderful and human grounds for optimism. Together – and only together – we create life. This alone helps us bear or conquer environmental or natural catastrophes, hunger and disease.
Without sympathy, the lights in our world would go out.
We are delighted to feature daily excerpts from Florian Langenscheidt’s inspiring Dictionary of Optimism. He is a renowned author, journalist, publisher and television presenter and has been researching and writing about happiness for over 40 years.