Saturday, January 24, 2009

positive thoughts

there's been an awful lot of negativity lately. with this economy, it seems like all you see in the news is one bad story after another. and it's percolating down to everyone, to the point that everywhere you turn it's just grim attitudes piled atop more grim attitudes piled on top of even more grim attitudes, making everything feel like a morass of morbidity.

not to say that it's not warranted by the reality of things. the scale of the problem, both in depth (intensity of the slowdown) and breadth (in terms of economic sector and in terms of global scale), is definitely staggering. and when you add in all the assorted issues, problems, disasters, and horrors of the world (war, genocide, terrorism, poverty, famine, disease, and all the afflictions of human misery and suffering), and then see so many public figures predicting it's going to get worse before it gets better, it seems only justified to be a little sober in the face of what may be the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression and one that is hitting the entire world.

but i'm starting to wonder if this may mean it's time for a little positivity.

maybe it's what we need.

my grandparents, during a long drive on one of our family summer vacations, detailed to me their experiences during the Great Depression and World War II.

they told me those were dark days. everyone had struggled during the Depression, for even basic necessities, and every day had been spent focusing on survival. and they had spent the prime of their youth just trying to ensure there was food to eat and water to drink, and then somehow trying to piece together their own education. and it was like this for years.

and then, just when things were starting to look better, things became worse. World War II hit, and the struggle to survive became a fight to live. and what made it worse was that it looked like the free world was not going to win--in the early days of the war, the allies were losing everywhere, and the militaries of the germans, italians, and japanese were machines that seemed invincible.

the forces of darkness, in short, were awesome. and anything good and decent was just a speck of dust before them. the situation then was grim.

my grandfather, with the confirmation of my grandmother, said it seemed like everything was lost. if there was ever a time for despair, that was it.

but the one thing my grandparents said, and the one thing i remember, is that it was at this time that they were--somehow, someway, inexplicably, incredibly--the most positive.

my grandparents said it really wasn't so extraordinary as i made it out to be. they said it was really pretty simple: they had to be...there wasn't much choice.

and here's why:
  • problems don't fix themselves. you can whine, moan, belly-ache, complain, cry, feel sorry for yourself, be angry, be bitter, be miserable, be depressed, be--in short--any and all kinds of absolute downright negative, but it's not going to change anything. reality will still be reality. reality is always reality. and the problem(s) will still be there.
  • problems can only be fixed through action. action requires motivation. motivation requires belief that something can be done...things can be better, that they will be better.
  • being positive is, in its essence, the belief that things can and will be better.
  • being negative means despair. and despair means surrender. and surrender means the darkness has won and the light has lost, without even putting up a struggle.
the implication of all this is very straightforward. for there to be any chance of things to get better, there has to be action. for any action to occur, there first has to be belief. which means that for there to be any hope that the darkness will fall and the light will rise, you really have to begin by being positive.

i've come to realize this lesson as i've gotten older, and always remember it whenever things seem to get bad. in a race, in school, in work, in life.

it worked for my grandparents, and seeing that it carried them through the Great Depression and World War II, i figure it's pretty apt for us now.

so here's to positive thoughts.

and i'll add to the cause some music that i found that just might help get things moving, starting with the song that was playing on the radio that prompted my grandparents to give me the above story:

accentuate the positive

let's don't worry

stand by me

the last 2 songs, incidentally, are from the Youtube Channel "Playing for Change" (reference:, and their website: it's about as positive an example you can find, and i encourage you to check them out.


Rhys Campbell said...

Hi Jonathan
Really enjoyed reading your post and if you don't mind, I've included it as a link in a post on my blog, Let me know if there are problems with this. Cheers, Rhys

jonathan starlight said...

i'm flattered. thanks for the compliment.
of course, feel free to provide a link.