Sunday, December 1, 2013

Positive Thinking vs. Realism

(The following is based on a Facebook conversation regarding author Barbara Ehrenreich's lecture exploring the darker side of positive thinking and the RSA Animate video that supports it, posted below.)

     What I'm finally "getting" in my thirty eighth year on this planet is to see things, people, and situations exactly as they are. Nothing more, nothing less. No more adding my own made up stories (such as looking at a homeless person and creating in my mind a complete history causing an emotional reaction rather than simply connecting with that human being as an equal, or meeting a person who has a different political stance than me and making up in my mind that I "know" everything about them). 

     Looking to a person's actions rather than words is not what we are taught as students in the current education system. The teacher is always right. . . not (as shown by this brilliant and hilarious display of detention slips). 

     A favorite quote by Jiddu Krishnamurti is "Do you know that even when you look at a tree and say, 'That is an oak tree', or 'that is a banyan tree', the naming of the tree, which is botanical knowledge, has so conditioned your mind that the word comes between you and actually seeing the tree? To come in contact with the tree you have to put your hand on it and the word will not help you to touch it." Imagine what life would be like if each and every one of us decided to approach others and situations as Krishnamurti discusses approaching the oak or banyan tree. 

     My goal is to allow people to show me who they are, not tell. Like a book. If you pick up a book to read and have already made up your mind what it will be about, you'll always be disappointed. If you allow it to show you its story, you may or may not be disappointed, but at least you gave it the opportunity. I can admit much of my sadness and disappointment in life has had to do with creating a fantasy of who or what a person should be (starting with parental figures, teachers, and friends). "Positive Thinking" can get in the way of allowing people and situations to show their true colors. Once their bright and vibrant or dark and dreary colors are shown, you then have a choice. And you cannot be lazy when looking for the truth; it is a bit of work. But once you are aware of what is being shown, you can then, and only then, ask your self, "Do I care to pick up this book or will I choose to leave it on the shelf for someone else?"

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