Ask anyone over 40, and they’ll probably tell you that they feel the same on the inside as they did when they were 18.
I know I do. I still love rock ’n’ roll. I’m an optimist. I continue to believe that good shall overcome evil. I’m still passionate about doing the right thing and fighting for the underdog and saving Mother Earth from polluters (that means litterbugs as well as coal companies, folks).
But I’ve seen more of the world than I had when I was 18. I’ve certainly seen a lot more cruelty and greed and hatred. I’ve witnessed the dumbfounding caprices of cancer, dementia and other illnesses, and I’ve watched the relentless forces of nature work their devilry on humankind and its feeble architecture.
I realize that good has its work cut out for it. Kindness is not as contagious as we would like for it to be. Cruelty has pushed the envelope, both in its structure and the number and zeal of its supporters.
Greed has accelerated to a speed our brains can barely comprehend. Hatred is a volcano that never quits burning but only changes the direction of its vitriol.
Many good people speak encouraging words and practice neighborly deeds in their houses of worship and throughout their communities. Maybe they can make a difference. But for every loving and altruistic person inspired by their choice of deity, there are adherents who pay lip service to a higher power while spreading the poison of their own malevolent attitudes.
Can I get an amen?
I’m not blaming religion. There are those who eschew it and are fine, conscientious people. I haven’t done research on mass murderers and serial killers to know their past, but statistically there must be some who were reared to have some religious beliefs and some who were not. People seem to evolve into selfishness, greed and narcissism without much outside help.
Who am I referencing with these thoughts? Scan the news and take your pick.
Business barons, sports idols, politicians, teachers, celebrities, LEOs, librarians, party girls, the quiet guy down the street – no type is immune. Anyone who thinks only about self and what’s in it for them.
These are not icons to admire or emulate. We put too many people up on pedestals, and more often than not they fall off them. We’re too quick to hail people as heroes or even as role models.
No human is perfect, and that’s a fact. But hold on to your youthful idealism and optimism. Associate with those who practice empathy and kindness.
That way, even when you’re 80 you can still feel 18.
Betsy Pickle is a veteran reporter and editor who occasionally likes to share her opinions with KnoxTNToday readers.