I was just reading a piece I have in draft, one I never posted here. It was a general rant about how much of what we read, see, are offered to take in via news and social media, is negative, derisive, and ugly.
I’m not going to post it.
I still agree with what I wrote. How I’m tired of the negative, how I yearn for the positive. But I’m too old to be on the playground, and that’s what it feels like. It feels like what it was to be out on recess, caught in the middle of some ridiculous name calling fight. How those fights seemed to escalate into the absurd and how the passion for those ludicrous arguments seemed to escalate as well. Escalation turned ugly, pushing turned to shoving, sometimes turning to blows. It’s exhausting.
I want a revolution of thought, I’m getting bogged down without one. I want kindness, ideas, offered solutions, compassion, a recognition of simple human dignity. I don’t think I’m the only one. I think most of us feel this way, even as we sometimes find ourselves participating in those playground-like antics.
What if, for a day, we posted only something positive. The old adage, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. If that’s you, post a photo of a sunrise or a cute puppy, or your grandchildren instead of that negative thing you are about to post.
What would that feel like?
I get up, I make my way to the french press and the tea kettle, I get my steaming mug of freshly made delicious coffee, I empty the dishwasher, I fold the laundry, I open my laptop to check email, then I head to my news feeds and finally Facebook. I’m shocked to see news articles about new inventions and good deeds and how even though I may not agree with this politicians views on this or that thing, they have good intentions, or are good in this one area, or they’re smart. I see that everyone seems to be posting how happy they are about this or that event, or friendship, or job opportunity, or the tasty hot meal they had last night. I read about how this guy, running for this office, had this idea to solve this problem. How interesting. I hear that even though Democrats and Republicans and Tea Party people are staunch, they are fair, and understanding, and compassionate toward those who don’t agree with them. I see kindness and forgiveness and goodwill toward fellow humans. I see us disagreeing with respect. I see sharing and helping and love.
Life is a matter of perception. It always is. We can look and see terrible things in our opponents, in the government, in each other, or we can look and see that even though we don’t agree it doesn’t make either of us a monster. It doesn’t make either of us an idiot. From there we can have reasonable discussions, we can listen to each other, we can gain understanding, and we can start to move forward, freed from the quagmire of distrust and finger-pointing and nastiness. There is something to like in almost everyone. Just as there is something to dislike. We see what we want to see.
We can see the negative in things, in life, in each other, and we can dwell there. If that’s the case, that’s what we will notice, that’s what we will pick up on first. The problems, the differences, the ways in which things are not right. Or we can see the positive in things, in life, and in each other. We can dwell there. In that place there’s forgiveness, problem-solving, things to build on, there’s hope.
It’s up to each of us to decide. I’d just like it if I could wave the magic wand and for one day we helped without criticism, we offered opinions without disparaging someone else, and we talked about solutions with kindness, instead of venom and animosity.
I believe, with all my heart, each of us is doing the best we can in the world. Making our way the best we know how. Sometimes what we do is not that great, and most times if it’s not that great it’s because we faltered, or we were never taught a better way, or we ran into something that spiraled out of control. We don’t know anyone else’s story. We can’t presume to know. We also can’t presume to think our ideas, our solutions, our way of doing things is the only way, or even the right way. There are many paths to a good solution, there are many “right” ways. Yes, there are wrong ways too, but we must make people feel safe in order to help them change. We must make them feel listened to, just as we like to be listened to. We can’t bully, or push, or strong arm people into our way of thinking. Most of us hate being told what we should be doing, but we don’t mind being talked to, respected for our opinions, and offered other opinions in return. We don’t mind a good chat. We all feel we should be respected. That doesn’t change with position or ideology or background. We all want to be respected as human beings, and we all should be.
I don’t expect that we’ll all hold hands and sing Kumbaya, but wouldn’t it be great if we went at things with that in our hearts. If we were open, loving, and kind. If we all realized we were in it together. Facing it together. Because we are. None of us are in it alone. Everything we do, small and large, effects other people, and spreads like a ripple out from ourselves.
I can only start with me. So this is me saying to me that I’ll try to be more present, more aware of what I say, how I say it, what I put out into the world. I’ll picture the faces of friends and family, I’ll try to act with hope and kindness and understanding. I will try not to judge. I’ll try to be fair. I will try to be a better listener.
Sure, we have a lot of problems, but there are also so many things that are good and beautiful out there. Look around. See them. Feel what that feels like to see them. To use a line from The Abyss, a movie I love, “We all see what we want to see. Coffey looks and he sees Russians. He sees hate and fear. You have to look with better eyes than that.”
Look with your better eyes. Look with them, and see.