The easiest idea in the English language


There is nothing more powerful and the way it is dominating this country is really unfortunate.  Its handmaidens are pessimism and despair. In fact, I can just about divide the world into the ‘yes’ and the ‘no’ people, but I don’t want to do that, as division fosters alienation, which is the last thing we all need right now.

It is easy to feel smart when being critical.  Like all opinionated people I have to guard against that tendency myself and you can see right here on this blog that I do feel free to evaluate all sorts of things.  How much easier it is to look at what others have done and identify the imperfections that inevitably lie in even the greatest works of art , finest theories and most exemplary people, than to achieve genius ourselves.  So, I make a concerted effort to analyse and then devise solutions to things that I think need changing. I try to remember it is just my opinion, for whatever that is worth and not to fall in love with my ideas.

I am an optimist. I cannot understand why anyone prefers to choose negativity, when the option every morning is to look on the bright side, no matter what we are enduring.  How does being nihilistic help resolve problems?

Last year I heard someone interviewing Ann Coulter.  After she spent fifteen minutes excoriating someone she doesn’t like (she keeps quite a large retinue in her crosshairs) the host asked her what she would do instead.  Her answer was, ‘I only criticize, I don’t create’.  Exactly. She spent a fortune  on a fine education and has written a dozen books that do not offer one positive or inspiring or pragmatic action to make the world a better place, let alone lifted a finger to improve it herself.  Like most of her ilk, she holds ‘liberals’ responsible for everything that goes wrong in the universe (and ‘nice guys finish last’, ‘bleeding hearts are chumps’).


Now, lest I fall under the sword of my own making here, I am not going to spend a lot of time discussing all the many negative people that have taken over the air waves.  We don’t even have to list them, since everyone knows who they are.  You will not hear a lot of masters, artists, poets, Nobel prize winners dominating the media, with the exceptions of National Public Radio (NPR) and PBS (Public Broadcasting System).  From time to time I visit relatives in North Carolina who have such a complicated television system in their house that I am always reluctant to touch it.  So I listen to NPR via WUNC when I am there and am always struck with the continuous flow of uplifting or educational stories and inspiring music they offer, from all over the world.  Why can’t more programming be life affirming like that? Why would anyone want to spend time with people who just spew doom and gloom, and lies.

I once took a seminar on levels of mental health, ranging from psychosis to self-actualization. They used a numerical system to refer to the different stages of development, above and below a zero line, below zero being mental illness and above zero mental health – both in varying degrees. The numbers presumably stood for how many  things keep us from consciousness when we are in that state. The lowest level of human personal development above psychosis (and therefore loosely considered neurosis) was life ruled by fear. Right above fear, was anger and judgment.  So, people who are very negative are usually suffering from fear, especially of loss of love, and right above that, the need to evaluate everything as right or wrong. According to this theory, we all move up and down a continuum from complete neurosis to complete health and balance.  People who are constantly judging others negatively, are just one step from the lowest level of awareness and far from becoming self-actualized, even though they usually don’t see it.  And, our society elevates people like this because they are particularly good at robotic execution of orders.  The best slave is the one who imagines himself the master.


I think we have to be taught fear, hate, and rejection.  Most children under the age of full mental development are quite open, trusting, loving and accepting. In psychoanalytical terms, this is before the emergence of the ego. Depending on their predispositions, of course, some a product of their genes, congenital anomalies, birth trauma, etc., their environment either fosters a positive or a negative approach to life. Most of us had a mix of both, since even well meaning parents can do and say things around and to children that are harmful to their development as fully realized, productive, joyful adults.

It is impossible to be fully functioning and a positive force in our own or anyone else’s life when we are filled with fear and hatred.  This is one reason that it would be better if the talking heads we listened to were not promoting separation, antagonism, and antipathy, which creates worry and anxiety, but rather were either entertaining in a life-affirmative way or educating with more objective and fact-based information. Less opinion and more analysis would go a long way to calming people down.  When we are calm, we can be energized and effective. We should all be appealing to the highest angels in one another, not our basest demons.

There was an interesting course at school on the history of psychology.  It traced the beginnings back to the time of the Greek philosophers and moved through all the great minds up to the current day. The professor laid out a useful way to view the order of man’s intellectual development by showing that these seminal thinkers could be divided along two different but related axes.  One category was those view man as innately good or evil, and  another was realists (empiricists) versus idealists.  So, for example, Plato was the prototype of an idealist while Aristotle was an empiricist.  Goethe had a positive view of man’s basic nature, while Hobbes took the opposite position.  While it is valuable to understand the reasoning for these opposing paradigms, I prefer to see life in an affirmative light and to view man as learning from his mistakes and evolving toward a higher and improved state.

This may just be distilled to the power of positive thinking but I don’t really see the value of being negative. Despite setbacks, the world is certainly in a far better state than it was three hundred, arguably even fifty years ago.  And if there is something that needs fixing, why waste valuable time in anger when we might help identify solutions instead? Better to light a candle than curse the darkness.

Wouldn’t we prefer the media to inspire pooling our resources and making things better, rather than paint everything with an inky brush and then wonder why we don’t feel we are thriving?

pollyanna loves cassandra

What we dwell on, we become.  I think we need more pollyannas than cassandras to rebuild this country rather than sit by while others tear it down.

No is a powerful word that needs to be used sparingly, if we want to get on with achieving happiness and prosperity.

Images: Wikimedia Commons


5 Comments on “The easiest idea in the English language”

  1. The world is the same, wherever you sit. I am afraid Hope has generally had an upward struggle, ever since Pandora let het out of the box. This in itself is a negative statement, but wonderful Hope has n’t heard such statements through the millennia and won’t start listening now. Thanks for the thought provoking post.


    • I agree – that is such an astute observation, too :-). For me the issue is the struggle and discipline (personally speaking, this is my challenge) to choose optimism even if it seems illogical. It is like believing in God vs being an atheist or agnostic. One might as well choose to believe in God and make the world seem like a more benign place, than take the opposite view and have nothing to cling to in the face of so much trouble. Optimism is a little raft to navigate the roiling seas, sts.


  2. Wow, interesting. I’d been working on a post for days that I was never able to get to say what I wanted it to say; it’s still sitting in my drafts pile on the dashboard, but it was basically about an argument I got into with a friend of mine who I felt was being overly simplistic and optimistic about the state of social change in the US. In the end I realized that part of my tendency to be overly negative when confronted with this person’s optimism was due to other difficulties I currently have in that friendship and not my own uber-pessimism, because I don’t feel I am uber-pessimistic. But I was really struggling with why, when confronted with this gal’s views, I tend to get so negative. This is only slightly related to your postm BTW. Just found it unusual that as I worked on a draft about my pessimism you wrote one about your optimism. 😉


    • Well, I could probably write another whole blog about this but I want to respond before I dive into the huge project I have today. I was brought up by one optimist and one pessimist. I always identified with my father because he seemed so smart to me. But, taking all the classes I have over the years, I have come to realize that things are not bleak unless I see them that way. So this is about my personal reining in of my critical nature (I am always evaluating and have to fight it) as well as my absolute disgust with the venom we have endured I guess ever since Reagan, but mostly since Clinton. And now this constant attack on Obama, these call in radio hosts and haters. I get so sick of it that I feel the only way we can overcome it is by irrational exuberance. Otherwise, I can sling mud with the best of ’em. I just won’t let myself wallow in it any more. I hate to say this, but naive and uninformed people who have no filter or have no modesty and sense of humility (Palin and Bachmann come to mind) turn me into an armchair critic. I force myself to avoid them all and not pollute my mind.

      Anyway, from what I see of you, you are a naturally empathic person, so you protect your vulnerable kindness by being on guard. I do that too, otherwise I find myself under emotional attack and retreat. I am working on being thicker skinned while not being tough, if that makes sense. I have spent plenty of time under a cloud of pessimism and have to talk myself out of it.

      As for the interesting coincidence, well, great minds ;-)! I would love to see what your thoughts are when you finish working on your post on this topic. Likely we would agree on a lot of points.


  3. Pingback: Fear and loathing | Beth Byrnes

It's your turn! I want to know what YOU think :-)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: