Yesterday, whilst on a train rolling frustratingly leisurely to Liverpool, the lady sitting opposite me discarded her newspaper with a big old sigh and offered me a warning: “The news today is particularly depressing. Don’t bother reading it!”
We shared the joke for a few minutes, laughing grimly about the total lack of ‘happy’ news, especially at present. What with politicians labelling society as ‘broken’; the credit crunch spiralling into recession; and the US Republican party reportedly spending a huge $150, 000 (£92, 000) on Sarah Palin’s wardrobe in the last two months; times are looking bleak indeed.
In a satisfying moment of serendipity, the poem I happened to read after this conversation is inspired by this very concept. It is a gentle, probing sort of poem, urging the reader to ‘leave behind the world of sorrow / and preoccupation / and get free’, because, in actual fact, the real ‘good news is published / by us’.
The Good News
They don’t publish
the good news.
The good news is published
We have a special edition every moment,
and we need you to read it.
The good news is that you are alive,
and the linden tree is still there,
standing firm in the harsh winter.
The good news is that you have wonderful eyes
to touch the blue sky.
The good news is that your child is there before you,
and your arms are available:
hugging is possible.
They only print what is wrong.
Look at each of our special editions.
We always offer the things that are not wrong.
We want you to benefit from them
and help protect them.
The dandelion is there by the sidewalk,
smiling its wondrous smile,
singing the song of eternity.
Listen! You have ears that can hear it,
Bow your head.
Listen to it.
Leave behind the world of sorrow
and get free.
The latest good news
is that you can do it.
by Thich Nhat Hanh.
(Thich Nhat Hanh is an exiled Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist who lives in the retreat community of Plum Village in south-west France which he founded. A tireless worker for peace during the Vietnam War, he became an internationally renowned spiritual guide and has written more than 75 books of prose poetry, and prayers.)