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Remaining optimistic in a world of flux and change: The Malabo Diary

The world is struggling from every corner to survive. It suffers from growing pangs in spite of the threat of annihilation from every side... And as truth is denied by the power elite, we grow to visualize the world to be bigger and separate from ourselves, and desperate despondence fills our minds as we visualize our souls are filling with darkness.

Be Optimistic!
Photo by Ken LaRive 2014 on a Mississippi Creek

On one hand we may try for weeks to detach a plastic filament from the stomach of a baby pilot whale, and then I see on the side of my rig, here in Africa, a line of garbage that stretches to the horizon. It is a mixture of man-made products, ablaze with color, and plastic is the number one ingredient. I’m told it does this every December on the equator, where it is said there are larger then normal tides. I’m also told that Equatorial Guinea has the most pristine and untouched beaches in the world. Untouched? I doubt that. I doubt that anything on the planet is now untouched by the hand of man.

But this is the way of men, the way of manipulation and force, indifferent by the simple battery of isolation and fatalistic selfish concerns... And on the other hand there are those who want to make a loving difference, and take a stand for good and right, and would in fact die for their beliefs... But the question plagues a thinking mind, as I question who’s good and right are they proposing? And that is the rub, as good and bad and right and wrong are scrambled and so misunderstood.

Back in high school I was given a test to determine my social affinities. I remember that I wanted to do well on that test, even though I knew there was no passing or failing grade. I was the last one to leave, but I seemingly managed to flunk it, in spite of what I was originally told. The teacher said that the company who examined it wrote “incompatible and inconsistent,” over mine... And for some reason those words have stuck in my head after all these years. Indeed, my thoughts were incompatible and inconsistent with the reckoning of that test, and I hope to my God that I will never change. Branded incompatible and inconsistent by a scientific method of testing, in a world that can only be described as berserk, is to me the ultimate compliment.

I thought perhaps, before I reasoned it out, that I had tried too hard. But I see now that I was nothing more then a product and reflection of my environment, as we all are. She told me that one area was extremely high, according to their calculations... my optimism. My thesaurus says another word for optimism is hopefulness, and I wondered at that too. How can a person be otherwise? I could not... I was young, and the world stretched out before me like infinity. I loved life, and I was in love with Maddy even then! I loved my music, my Mustang, laughing with friends, going to the beach, and countless smaller things... Yes, they were right in that assessment of a sixteen year old who saw that there was a beauty in this world, and because of that, had hope.

If we could focus on the positive things, like the beautiful plants growing so lush next to this sparkling rain-swollen stream of Malabo. The rounded lichen-covered volcanic rocks, and the tiny phosphor crustaceans that cling to them, is indeed a photographer’s dream... And I click away at the little Sunbird glinting and sparkling as it clings to heavy, freshly washed flowers... If in fact we could see nature in all of its spectacular beauty... see it as a part of us; perhaps then we could pick up that trash… perhaps, just beyond, we would try to clean up the acres of rubbish that has washed down from the little town below the volcano, and open the gates of our intellect to encompass the little Christian Charity chapel nestled in the middle of a compound of whitewashed stucco where children suffer and die from AIDS...

We are more then the lust for earthly delights. There is an artistic urge in all of us yearning to get out... and this will to create is, above everything else we are as human beings, god-like. What is it that is lacking in a person’s heart? What are we looking for so desperately as we focus on bits and pieces of this great world, without seeing its entirety? For instance, what harm is a rotting animal on the side of the road as we see it in a lovely ride to work? It does something to the spirit as we pass by it every day, seeing its various stages of decay... Something happens to us as humans when we see the same horrible thing over and over, day in and day out. We begin to think that it’s normal, and in order to keep our minds healthy, we stop looking, and these things blur and go unnoticed. We become desensitized. What happens when we find ourselves in a place where we can see the sunset and fresh cool autumn wind fills our lungs? Something stirs, and for that moment, and a little while after, we feel our reason for being. In that moment we yearn, we ache not only for what could be in our distant smoky future, but agonize in what could have been.

The challenges in this life are many. We work from dawn till dusk, then cook, then wash cloths, fold and put them up, then in an exhausted stupor, fall asleep. The days blend into one, and the years topple on top of the other, and in the end, we will sit in our rocker looking out... What will we think? What will we see? Will we look out over grassy fields and find them our Elysian? Will we see the world is better because we made a difference? Or, in hopeless bitterness will we say, “I wish I would have, I wish I could have.” as regrets fill us to the bone...

I see that man on the side of the road with the sign that reads, “Will work for food.” And I am conditioned not to give to him because I’ve been told he is a flim-flam artiest, and a drunk, just as they all are... So I have started giving in spite of it... And I’ve now found that bit of money is the best spent all day. I got a lot more in that moment then he did, and mine will last forever. It matters nothing what he does with that money, if he is lying, or anything about him at all. It is only what is in my loving and trusting heart that is important... Open it to the world, as every act of kindness, no matter how small, will fill you. And the world will be a better place because you were in it...