29 November 2002


Someone was shouting, "F--k you, bitch! F--k you!" The SUV weaved erratically through lanes of parked cars and whipped into a space. Two smiling teen-aged boys emerged. The taller one glared at me. "What are you lookin at?" he said. They passed me by and went into the grocery store, most probably on an errand for their mother. I had forgotten how precariously men balance on the edge of sanity through adolescence.

The miracle is that almost all of us come out of it as decent, intact human beings. Those who don't are rare enough that, when they act out, they make news — bad news — the stuff that gets reported, because the good news is too ordinary. Let us give thanks for that.

One of those who emerged from adolescence as a psychopath who threatens genocidal attacks with a mild demeanor and a smiling face, is Usama Bin Laden. If he had his way, he would erase Western Civilization from the globe. But Western Civilization cannot be conquered from without — if it falls, it will be by internal disintegration. Ultimately, Bin Laden's efforts will be futile. Let us give thanks for that.

What Bin Laden has succeeded in doing, is bringing America to the realization that it needs a Department of Homeland Security. I can't say I have an insider's view of the emerging organization, but everyone I talk to who is involved with it warns that we can't let it become another Gestapo. They are aware of the risk in what they themselves are doing. Let us give thanks for that, too.

Bin Laden, the recent shootings in the Washington, DC, area, the riots in Nigeria over a reporter's comments on the upcoming Miss World pageant, and all the other bad news make us forget the good news that normally saturates every part of our lives except the mass media.

I was scooping up my dogs' poop in my back yard today, and noticed the sun glinting through the steam rising from the most recent deposit. The steam curled into exquisite vortices, rising, expanding into diaphanous veils that vanished into the pale blue morning. I staggered to think that the photons that illuminated this vision burst into being in the thermonuclear hell of the sun's core, then took some 50 years to percolate to the sun's surface before racing the next 93 million miles in 8 minutes — to strike this shimmering ribbon of steam, and then bounce into my eyes that I might see this beauty.

Truly this a wonderful world. Wonder and beauty are all around and within us, even in the most mundane things. Let us give thanks for that.