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Staff file photo / Troy Rogers, left, and Tony Oliver pass out bagged lunches on the Westside on Tuesday, May 5, 2020, in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Let's look back at Thursday.

I'm tempted to declare it the best Thanksgiving ever.

Why?

Not because we had a jolly time. In fact, we fought off the Worst Cold Ever. Down the street, a stomach bug upset Thanksgiving for friends, who wept with disappointment. Others, still mourning from COVID-19, could only endure Thanksgiving.

So Thursday itself may have been painful.

But look behind it — at the background, the larger picture.

We are living in a stunning age of miraculous invention and ease.

Now may be the very best time to be alive.

"Despite our dark imaginings, life has been getting better in pretty much every way," writes Joshua Rothman in The New Yorker.

In 2018, Rothman interviewed the rationalist thinker Steven Pinker whose book "Enlightenment Now" presents 500 pages of proof that the world is not getting bleaker but improving in magnificent ways.

"Around the globe, improved health care has dramatically reduced infant and maternal mortality, and children are now better fed, better educated and less abused. Workers make more money, are injured less frequently and retire earlier. In the United States, fewer people are poor, while elsewhere in the world, and especially in Asia, billions fewer live in extreme poverty," writes Rothman.

Accidental deaths, car crashes, murder, rape, genocide victims — all decreasing, Pinker says.

Yes, there will always be troubles — pandemics, violence, poverty.

But in the midst of these troubles, reason and logic suggest a stunning claim: Is this the very best time to be alive?

Take Thanksgiving. In millions of American homes, the feasts were as large as the tables that held them. Food, kept fresh and free from contaminants, was prepared and shipped across thousands of miles in trucks and trains to stores and refrigerators — some homes have two! — that kept them fresh for days and weeks. Clean water flows from multiple taps. Bathrooms flush waste to sewage systems, out of sight, out of mind.

Cold? Press a few buttons and your house warms.

Sick? Press a few buttons — on phones no less powerful than supercomputers — and trained emergency professionals will arrive within minutes.

Bored? A few more buttons on your TV and voila! Hours of entertainment. Forget something? A few more buttons on that phone-supercomputer and companies will deliver the missing item to your house within days, hours even.

In 1900, I would have died at 48, based on life expectancy rates. This would have been, statistically, my last Thanksgiving. Now? I'm expected to enjoy another four decades of life.

Thanksgiving, just like every day right now, is unfolding in a golden age.

But it doesn't feel that way, does it?

A doom-and-gloom narrative colors much of our world. Buddhism speaks of life's "10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows" — the normal ups and downs, joys and sorrows that we all experience, yet a pessimistic mass media, fueled by algorithms and negative bias, twists this into 1,000 joys and 19,000 sorrows.

Or 1,000 joys, 4,000 worries, 5,000 political arguments and 10,000 sorrows.

Gregg Easterbrook, author of "It's Better Than It Looks: Reasons for Optimism in an Age of Fear," calls it "catastrophism" or, as Rothman puts it, "the continual overstatement of what's wrong."

What if we continually overstate what's working well and improving?

According to Pinker, a newspaper could have run the following headline every day for the last 25 years: "Number of people in extreme poverty fell by 137,000 since yesterday."

Imagine if you'd read that headline every day since 1996.

Yes, there is suffering. Immense and pervasive in places.

Yet there is also miraculous innovation and a catalog of inventions, discoveries and advancements that have alleviated suffering.

Yes, our country and world face challenges.

Yet, it would be far more effective and wise to meet those issues from a place of strength and clarity, realizing the unimaginable abundance of good fortune omnipresent in our modern lives.

Such knowing encourages generosity. So stunned by our abundance, we share more.

This, in turn, creates more goodwill, community and the spiritual safety-nets of joy and gratitude.

Happy Thanksgiving, Chattanooga.

***

Last year, a group of local men collected coats, toboggans, sleeping bags and gloves for our city's homeless poor.

This winter, they're asking for help again.

"We need new or slightly worn coats and toboggans," said Troy Rogers, the city's public safety coordinator, who, along with Tony Oliver, passed out some 20,000 meals during the pandemic.

Thanks to you, they collected more than 400 coats, 60 sleeping bags, 100 blankets and 125 hats last winter, Rogers says.

To participate, please contact Rogers (423-305-2707 or troyrogers32@yahoo.com) or Oliver (423-994-1562) or Bryant Ellis (347-447-3569).

David Cook writes a Sunday column and can be reached at dcook@timesfreepress.com.

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