Everything Going Great
Bad Faith, Worse News, and Julian Assange
Gospel, a word from Old English, is a compound that means “good news.” And it’s gospel that’s been in short-supply as we head into the Christmas season. Whenever this fact gets me down, I remember that finding evil, malfeasance, and even suffering in the headlines is just a sign that the press is doing its job. I don’t think any of us wants to wake up in the morning and read “Everything Going Great!” over our egg-nog-spiked chai — though even if we do, we know a headline like that is just an indication of all that’s unreported.
Coming into this Christmas season, I find myself beset by odd religious yearnings—I say odd, because I’m not much of a believer, not in God, not in governments, not in institutions generally. I try to save my faith for people and principles, but that can lead to some lean years in the slaking of spiritual thirst. I can find a way to attribute my stirrings to the ritualism of Covid — the ablutions of sanitizing and masking, the penitent isolation, the what-does-it-all-mean? that comes from confronting powerlessness and the caprice of illness — but a more convincing source might be the novelty of parenthood: religion being a stand-in for tradition in general, I ask myself, what am I going to leave my child? What intellectual and emotional inheritance?
Along with “good news,” I’ve been thinking of “bad faith,” a phrase that always reminds me of the Thomas Pynchon joke, wherein everything bad becomes a German spa: Bad Kissingen, Bad Kreuznach, Baden-Baden… Bad Karma.
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