Friday, June 3, 2011

good news

My brother-in-law, when he was alive, once suggested to me as a then-newspaper worker that it would be a fine idea to create a news outlet that laid out the "good news." I said I thought such an effort would probably fall flat on its face, first because "good news" is too subjective and therefore (often) too saccharine, and second because, as former news guru Walter Cronkite once observed, "News isn't about how many cats did not get up on the garage roof."

Funny how good-news ick can make a sane man run for the hills, but there is a willingness to see a common response to bad news: Bad news is "objectively" bad stuff -- war, famine, murder, etc. Human bonds are forged in the face of bad news ... ain't it awful? Seldom is there any thought given to the light-and-shadow nearness, the DNA-like companionship, of good news and bad. It's all subjective, but some subjectives are more compelling than others, I guess.

I thought of this today after reading a story about the National Spelling Bee and its 14-year-old winner. In some small way, I was delighted for these contestants and their efforts. The last few contestants were spelling words "like 'abhinaya' and 'capoeira' and 'cheongsam' and 'opodeloc," words that most have never even heard, much less used or spelled.

In one sense, the contest was utterly useless, fruitless and meaningless. Who needs that shit, right? Spelling doesn't put spaghetti on the dinner table or change a flat tire. But in another sense it carried with it a whisper of excellence, of discipline, and of an implied willingness and ability to exercise a very fine human capacity -- the intellect. I like excellence of almost any kind, so the National Spelling Bee story qualified as heart-warming good news to  me.

I once saw a TV story about a man -- down south, I think -- who made sling shots ... went into the woods, gathered the necessary wood, affixed the rubber banding, and could shoot a quarter out of the air. He had what seemed like thousands of sling shots in his barn/workshop.

And I once interviewed a man who had amassed something like 500 lawn mowers. He knew their history, their uses, their construction ... he had done his best to get to the full meaning.

Useless, some will say. Insane, others may opine. No one cares, perhaps. Sling shots, lawn mowers, weird words ... just following a passion or interest deeper and deeper and deeper until, eventually, it's neither good news nor bad. It's just your news. I admire that shit -- the willingness to really investigate and actualize. I love it even when it bores the socks off me or scares me stupid.

1 comment:

  1. I imagine what's good news to one fella will be heresy or treason to another.