- The Washington Times - Monday, April 10, 2006

Traumatic strength

“We love to hear the stories of people who have been transformed by their tribulations, perhaps because they testify to a bona fide psychological truth, one that sometimes gets lost amid endless reports of disaster: There is a built-in human capacity to flourish under the most difficult circumstances. …

“This and other promising findings about the life-changing effects of crises are the province of the new science of post-traumatic growth. This fledgling field has already proved the truth of what once passed as bromide: What doesn’t kill you can actually make you stronger.

“Post-traumatic stress is far from the only possible outcome. In the wake of even the most terrifying experiences, only a small proportion of adults become chronically troubled. More commonly, people rebound — or even eventually thrive.”

“Those who weather adversity well are living proof of one of the paradoxes of happiness: We need more than pleasure to live the best possible life. Our contemporary quest for happiness has shriveled to a hunt for bliss — a life protected from bad feelings, free from pain and confusion.”

— Kathleen McGowan, “The Hidden Side of Happiness,” in the April issue of Psychology Today

The shock is gone

“The colossal failure of the sequel to the mammoth 1992 hit ‘Basic Instinct’ is primarily due to the new movie’s colossal wretchedness. …

“‘Basic Instinct 2’ … exists merely to pay exorbitant and undeserved fees to its producers and its over-the-hill star, Sharon Stone, who evidently collected $14 million at a time when she couldn’t get a major Hollywood studio to pay her 14 cents to headline a film. But it’s still among the worst motion pictures you will probably never see.

“‘Basic Instinct 2’ is beneath discussion except for the change it heralds in moviegoing tastes and, if it’s not stretching it too much, American society as a whole since the release of the original film 14 years ago. At the time, ‘Basic Instinct’ seemed to herald the dawn of a new age of explicit Hollywood moviemaking. But in fact it proved to be the last moment at which it was still possible for mainstream Hollywood to release a film that had the capacity to shock and titillate with its graphic sexuality.”

— John Podhoretz, writing on “Wretched Excess,” in yesterday’s Weekly Standard online

The worst generation?

“A University of California, Berkeley survey of middle-class children from age 5 to their early 20s says that discipline helps manners and mores. Raised right, you act right.

“If not — well, visit any mall to see the contrast. Teenagers jostle the elderly. Few boys open a door for girls. And girls are too busy dressing like an MTV Video ‘ho’ to notice. Dialogue is a contact sport; English superfluous to profanity. What’s the matter with kids? Gaucherie is their DNA. Recently I called the wife of a national pollster ‘ma’am’; she reacted like Dracula at the sign of the cross.

“Priorities have consequences. Americans in 2006 shout that money rules; ethics are situational; beauty is skin-deep; and humility is for squares. Diogenes sought honesty; we seek designer garb, an IPod, the latest DVD. ‘Style matters’ — depth does not.

“Many children are as honest, kind and moral as children were a decade ago. Many more, I suspect, are not. Tom Brokaw deemed the adults of World War II ‘the greatest generation.’ What if the Winter Olympics reveal a showboating, trash-talking, striving-pathetically-to-be-hip ‘worst generation’ of kids?”

— Curt Smith, writing on “Generation ME,” in yesterday’s National Review Online

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