Elen sila lumenn omentielvo!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Being Positive, and all that rot



A friend posted this image on Facebook yesterday, prompting several interesting responses, mainly from folks who disagree with this notion. "Life isn't a test," the refrain goes, which naturally leads to the suggestion that it's all a matter not of how you look at life, but rather, how you choose to look at life.

This sounds to me an awful lot like the idea that you can choose to be happy, that you can choose to react positively to any situation. Stiff upper lip and all that, lads! Buck up, it ain't that bad! Cheer up! Look on the bright side! Life is so beautiful, how can you not be positive! How can you possibly feel that life is a test!

To which I say, Bollocks.

My argument with such thinking isn't so much with the notion that life is often beautiful, because it often is. There really is wonderment to be found in this Universe, and life offers many amazing, fantastical moments that I would hate to miss. But life also tests us, sometimes unforgivably, often cruelly. My mother-in-law only got sixty years on this planet. My son got fifteen months.

Life gives one test after another, and eventually, we all fail. There's a popular saying out there that "God never gives us more than we can handle." I've never believed this, because it seems to me that there comes a moment for each and every one of us when God most certainly does give us more than we can handle. We call that moment death.

But all that is tangential to my main point, the annoyingly pervasive notion that we can simply choose our way to happiness. I had a boss once who liked saying "You can't choose what happens to you, but you can choose how you respond." And sometimes, many times even, that's likely true. But it's not nearly as true as a lot of positive thinkers like to portray. Choosing happiness over sadness isn't like choosing steak instead of chicken, and I'm uncomfortable with the idea of putting the responsibility for sadness on the shoulders of those who are sad. It isn't that simple, and implying that it is seems highly disrespectful to me -- disrespectful of other people, their lives, their struggles, and yes, their choices, inasmuch as they have power to make any.

Life is a test, sometimes. And if you don't see it that way, I wonder if it's not because you've chosen to be happy, but because maybe you haven't really been tested yet.

6 comments:

Jason said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jason said...

[ Reposting because my previous attempt at faux HTML commands did not translate, so... ]

[ polite applause ]

"I'm uncomfortable with the idea of putting the responsibility for sadness on the shoulders of those who are sad. It isn't that simple, and implying that it is seems highly disrespectful to me -- disrespectful of other people, their lives, their struggles, and yes, their choices, inasmuch as they have power to make any."

[ THUNDEROUS APPLAUSE ]

Quince said...

Facebook has opened a curtain that like many others opened before it, should have probably remained closed. Our disgusting need to be acclimated socially is like sausage, I wish I did not see it getting made.

I see so many people on Facebook that have become apparently delusional in their attempt to portray a facade of happiness. Rewriting personal history and pretending high school and college days were one continuous cavalcade of joy, friendships and adventure. Talking about their jobs as if they are integral to the company or even redeeming society itself.

They are defined by their jobs but not consumed by them. They remain in control. No overbearing bosses for them. No they are the alpha dog at their place of work. Oh, and coworkers all just rock!

Their love for their perfect family is boundless. Uncles, aunts, cousins, siblings all come together in feasts of joy and love.

Lets not forget their talented and wonderful children. No drugs or sex or rebellion here. Oh they are not stepford but rather fashionably "cool". They all make grand life choices. Did I mention the scholarships?

Finally, the last post any of us make. The glowing obituary. Oh this person was so great, so loving and so courageous in the face of this terrible disease that claimed their otherwise triumphant spirit in the end.

I want to run from the room screaming. What do we accomplish from all this Pollyanna delusion?

Annehueser said...

And on a more mundane note, I was trying to explain to my boss last week that no amount of positive thinking was going to make what she wanted me to do less time consuming.

fillyjonk said...

(This is partly a test because I had to reset darn-all in Google because Google is stupid)

I think there's maybe an "acute" vs. "chronic" difference. It's ogreish (IMHO) to tell someone who is grieving to "buck up."

But that person at work? You know, the one we all have? Who always finds the raincloud? Sometimes I want to tell them to buck up but usually instead I just avoid them so they don't bring me down.

Roger Owen Green said...

of course it's a test. a test of choices, dealing with the unknown, fortune, tragedy...