The easiest idea in the English language
There is nothing more powerful and the way it is dominating this country is really unfortunate. Its handmaidens are pessimism and despair. In fact, I can just about divide the world into the ‘yes’ and the ‘no’ people, but I don’t want to do that, as division fosters alienation, which is the last thing we all need right now.
It is easy to feel smart when being critical. Like all opinionated people I have to guard against that tendency myself and you can see right here on this blog that I do feel free to evaluate all sorts of things. How much easier it is to look at what others have done and identify the imperfections that inevitably lie in even the greatest works of art , finest theories and most exemplary people, than to achieve genius ourselves. So, I make a concerted effort to analyse and then devise solutions to things that I think need changing. I try to remember it is just my opinion, for whatever that is worth and not to fall in love with my ideas.
I am an optimist. I cannot understand why anyone prefers to choose negativity, when the option every morning is to look on the bright side, no matter what we are enduring. How does being nihilistic help resolve problems?
Last year I heard someone interviewing Ann Coulter. After she spent fifteen minutes excoriating someone she doesn’t like (she keeps quite a large retinue in her crosshairs) the host asked her what she would do instead. Her answer was, ‘I only criticize, I don’t create’. Exactly. She spent a fortune on a fine education and has written a dozen books that do not offer one positive or inspiring or pragmatic action to make the world a better place, let alone lifted a finger to improve it herself. Like most of her ilk, she holds ‘liberals’ responsible for everything that goes wrong in the universe (and ‘nice guys finish last’, ‘bleeding hearts are chumps’).
Now, lest I fall under the sword of my own making here, I am not going to spend a lot of time discussing all the many negative people that have taken over the air waves. We don’t even have to list them, since everyone knows who they are. You will not hear a lot of masters, artists, poets, Nobel prize winners dominating the media, with the exceptions of National Public Radio (NPR) and PBS (Public Broadcasting System). From time to time I visit relatives in North Carolina who have such a complicated television system in their house that I am always reluctant to touch it. So I listen to NPR via WUNC when I am there and am always struck with the continuous flow of uplifting or educational stories and inspiring music they offer, from all over the world. Why can’t more programming be life affirming like that? Why would anyone want to spend time with people who just spew doom and gloom, and lies.
I once took a seminar on levels of mental health, ranging from psychosis to self-actualization. They used a numerical system to refer to the different stages of development, above and below a zero line, below zero being mental illness and above zero mental health – both in varying degrees. The numbers presumably stood for how many things keep us from consciousness when we are in that state. The lowest level of human personal development above psychosis (and therefore loosely considered neurosis) was life ruled by fear. Right above fear, was anger and judgment. So, people who are very negative are usually suffering from fear, especially of loss of love, and right above that, the need to evaluate everything as right or wrong. According to this theory, we all move up and down a continuum from complete neurosis to complete health and balance. People who are constantly judging others negatively, are just one step from the lowest level of awareness and far from becoming self-actualized, even though they usually don’t see it. And, our society elevates people like this because they are particularly good at robotic execution of orders. The best slave is the one who imagines himself the master.
I think we have to be taught fear, hate, and rejection. Most children under the age of full mental development are quite open, trusting, loving and accepting. In psychoanalytical terms, this is before the emergence of the ego. Depending on their predispositions, of course, some a product of their genes, congenital anomalies, birth trauma, etc., their environment either fosters a positive or a negative approach to life. Most of us had a mix of both, since even well meaning parents can do and say things around and to children that are harmful to their development as fully realized, productive, joyful adults.
It is impossible to be fully functioning and a positive force in our own or anyone else’s life when we are filled with fear and hatred. This is one reason that it would be better if the talking heads we listened to were not promoting separation, antagonism, and antipathy, which creates worry and anxiety, but rather were either entertaining in a life-affirmative way or educating with more objective and fact-based information. Less opinion and more analysis would go a long way to calming people down. When we are calm, we can be energized and effective. We should all be appealing to the highest angels in one another, not our basest demons.
There was an interesting course at school on the history of psychology. It traced the beginnings back to the time of the Greek philosophers and moved through all the great minds up to the current day. The professor laid out a useful way to view the order of man’s intellectual development by showing that these seminal thinkers could be divided along two different but related axes. One category was those view man as innately good or evil, and another was realists (empiricists) versus idealists. So, for example, Plato was the prototype of an idealist while Aristotle was an empiricist. Goethe had a positive view of man’s basic nature, while Hobbes took the opposite position. While it is valuable to understand the reasoning for these opposing paradigms, I prefer to see life in an affirmative light and to view man as learning from his mistakes and evolving toward a higher and improved state.
This may just be distilled to the power of positive thinking but I don’t really see the value of being negative. Despite setbacks, the world is certainly in a far better state than it was three hundred, arguably even fifty years ago. And if there is something that needs fixing, why waste valuable time in anger when we might help identify solutions instead? Better to light a candle than curse the darkness.
Wouldn’t we prefer the media to inspire pooling our resources and making things better, rather than paint everything with an inky brush and then wonder why we don’t feel we are thriving?
What we dwell on, we become. I think we need more pollyannas than cassandras to rebuild this country rather than sit by while others tear it down.
No is a powerful word that needs to be used sparingly, if we want to get on with achieving happiness and prosperity.
Images: Wikimedia Commons