Is it ignorant of us to look at small, positive things when there is a global pandemic going on? Maybe its more acceptable to talk about the latter because it helps us relieve our anxiety by joining the panicked crowds. If we focus on the bad, we don’t have to change the way we’ve always done things, but rather follow what everyone else is doing and feeling. We buy things because others buy. We feel our spirits dampen because everyone else’s is too. We feel more connected to others because we think we feel similarly. But this is an illusion.
To think differently from the crowd requires us to be more accountable to our emotions and logic. Yes things seem bad, and rightfully so. But do our actions contribute to making things better, or just joining everyone else in the hysteria? Solutions are found thinking differently from the crowds where the problems emerge from–and this begins by looking at the positive things that people easily ignore.
Is the title statement full of judgement or praise? Our choices can really change the way we see things. It depends a lot on what a person is feeling; and feelings often change. At any moment, we can turn things around. Or we can continue down the same path. For this reason, life is seldom a linear journey. We can be anything: kind, but we worry about suffering. So we become suffering. Open, but we worry about our feelings being exploited. So we become exploited victims. Happy, but we worry for how long? And so we become uncertainty. Pick one, cast away the other.
If we spend time being angry at irresponsible people for not acting mindfully in crisis, we become distracted from being helpful ourselves. It’s really wasteful to use precious energy being frustrated and angry at the selfish and ignorant actions of others; ugliness is often obvious, and it doesn’t need a hype-man. Shaking closed fists angrily at injustice has its place, but during a time when friends and loved ones suffer uncertainty, be an open hand. An open hand comes from an open heart, and becomes a place of giving and receiving; a place of no ego. We all are in need of something, and can always give something. Try to keep both heart and hand open, and let’s overshadow ugliness with action.
So many of us, since grade school, grew up taught the the idea that it’s important to make a difference. It’s one thing to hear about the great deeds of people like FDR, Dr. King or Gandhi during difficult times; but it’s another experience to be a person who acts consciously when things are difficult. The greatest difference is made during times of difficulty, because kindness becomes a scarce commodity. A great deed can be just calling a friend, to see if they are okay. It could be posting on social media where supplies are still available, and offering to pick some stuff for others. It could be picking up and donating excess supplies to senior communities.
Every act from kindness is a source for greatness. Instead of shaming the people who are acting impulsively and adding fuel to the fire, perpetuating the story of how the world has gone crazy, I suggest another solution: be courageous enough to be the sanity in this passing storm. Because when it all eventually subsides, we will have to look at ourselves and either regret, or be proud, of the people we acted as.
One of the earliest and most important things I’ve learned (and often forget) from martial arts is that even if we block the first attack, we’ll still get hit if we don’t move out of the way. This principle is true when dealing with the excessive negativity of others; maybe we’ll be able to counter a few negative comments with some positive ones, but if we don’t make it a point to move on from either the conversation or person, the unrelenting attacks will start to damage us.
The only way someone can make us stand there and take an emotional beating is if we are convinced by guilt to deserve it. No one is truly qualified to be the judge of another person, and are fully responsible for only ourselves. As Eleanor Roosevelt once said:
No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
Redeem yourself if you fucked up, but don’t just submit. Get moving.
If there is anything faster than the speed of light, it is the speed of imagination. It can take billions of light years to travel anywhere in space, but only milliseconds to imagine being there: we can imagine travelling to the Sun, survive its immense gravity and heat, and get there much faster than on a spaceship (that has yet to be invented during our lifetime). Back on Earth, we can imagine being at the bottom of the ocean much faster than actually travelling there. Our thoughts and imagination are immensely powerful because they are not bound by physical limitations. And although thoughts may not be tangible, they do affect our lives in every way because our perspective of the world is the world we live in, and how we think about ourselves shapes our own unique experience and reality.
An increased mindfulness for the way we talk to ourselves can determine the type of energy we radiate into our personal lives. The nuclear bomb was possible once we understood the relationship between E=mc^2, in which c represents the speed of light and m represents mass. It took some imagination (which provided the framework for the scientific trials later) to understand that the larger the mass of something, the more potential energy it contains. Likewise a small object with great speed, like a bullet, could yield just as much energy. A nuclear bomb gets it energy from displacing the nucleus of a tiny atom. And yet such a small change in internal structure is enough to wreak havoc on entire civilizations. What if we began to think of our thoughts as powerful weapons?
Thoughts may not have actual weight, but they affect everything in our lives. Thoughts have an unquantifiable mass and they move at immeasurable speed. Thoughts lead to action, and action carries weight in our world. How we imagine ourselves and others shapes our own unique life experience. We can create immense positive energy by increasing the frequency of gratitude, kindness and patience in our lives. Or we can “nuke” positive thoughts about ourselves instantly with negativity, self-doubt and entitlement.
Just as the center of the stars have billions of nuclear reactions happening simultaneously, the center of our brains are constantly reacting a myriad of opposing thoughts and generating great amounts of energy. As Carl Sagan once said, “We are all made of star stuff.” It’s no coincidence that we are, in many ways, just like the stars and cosmic energies to which we feel so tiny. Our thoughts may seem like nothing, but our perspective is everything.
The other day, I was waiting to checkout at the grocery store. Next to me, a short elderly lady wearing a golden plastic tiara (like the ones you get from party favor stores) was having trouble reading something on a movie box. She finally turned to me and asked, “Excuse me hun, but could you read this for me?”
“Yeah, no problem!” I sat my groceries down, grabbed the box and read: “Fifty Shades Of Grey.” She noticed the surprised look on my face and laughed.
She revealed that her daughter was into the Fifty Shades series, but she didn’t know much about it herself. Her eyes widened when I told her that I never watched any movies from the series myself:
“Oh gosh, there are more of these things?” Time seems to move quickly when having conversations in line because it was finally my turn to check out. I asked the cashier if she could help her find a box set for Fifty Shades. Turned out, the cashier Tina was a huge fan of the series herself. and even Googled a coupon for my new friend. It made me wonder: what causes someone to go above and beyond to help another person out? She didn’t have to “google” a coupon, nor have the conversation that followed after the initial exchange.
Perhaps it is the courage to ask, to initiate a conversation. In the simple process of asking, the little old lady created a moment for us three random strangers to connect and share a fun moment. Often times, we pass up potential moments of connection when we are hesitant to talk to someone new. But ultimately, most people welcome conversation about things that they happen to be interested in. There are plenty of reasons not talk to someone new. So that’s why I encourage you to find just one reason to talk to someone today. Talk to a few new people, and see where the conversation goes. Through conversation, we learn more about about ourselves, and connection makes the world a better place.
We can always improve ourselves in small ways. But when we stop believing in our ability to make a change, we begin to suffer. If we try to live a life detached from reality (usually characterized by a false defeatist mantra of “life sucks”), this can translate into trying to live vicariously through others (i.e. parents’ expectation for their children, friends expectation of friends, etc.) because we relinquish accountability for ourselves. Sometimes, we expect so much more from people other than ourselves, that we forget that we are the only person that we have the most over. The foremost person we should expect anything from is ourselves, and the rest is just icing on the cake. We all have the infinite potential to create an inspired, joyful life; but only if we believe that there is more to life than our current difficulties.
This is a letter I wrote to a younger friend about why it’s important to believe in positive things, especially love. It might not work out like you planned, but positivity gives you the strength and humility to learn in any process. I hope you find value in this as did I in writing and reflecting on it.
I understand that it can be difficult to find the right person to date. But I can’t just stand by and let you believe that just because it’s difficult, that it’s not worth it. When you find the right person, maybe you won’t be together forever. Maybe things will go wrong. But you will most definitely learn. We often see perfect relationships on social media, but these are ultimately fiction — a fragment of people who are a lot more dynamic and strange than just a few snapshots. Try not to be fooled by any narrow concept of what a relationship should be. Get out, be vulnerable and get to know someone. And don’t believe that a handful of negative people represent the whole: it’s simply not true; this type of thinking only propogates negativity and suffering. I’m sure that right now, someone valuable and worth it might be thinking the same thing of other people out there. And maybe like you, they have a friend telling them that not all people are the same, and hopefully they’ll snap out of this negative thinking. We cannot let negative thoughts ever stop us from achieving our goals, be it career or love. The path you’ve chosen for your life is probably difficult. I’m sure there are many people who tell you that it’s not worth it, or that you’re crazy for pursuing it – but you still pursue it regardless because it gives you and others around you happiness. Romance and relationships are the same way friend. We cannot let the world convince us that it’s not worth it. Everything that’s worth it will take time, right? Let’s encourage others to not only give happiness, but hope that their dreams about love and success are valid and attainable.