To Concentrate on “Good Things”

How much better you feel when you focus on the good and ignore the bad.

Is it wrong of me to categorize things in this way? Can there be said to be “good” and “bad” in any objective sense? Some would argue not but I choose to ignore their reasoning and their conclusion.

In my subjective consciousness there is good and there is bad. I have been told that there is good going on in the world and that I should look for it. I am convinced that to do so is to help cast off the black lens of accidie. That to don rose tinted spectacles is an important part of changing one’s mind. In other words (physiology allowing) many of us should be capable of brightening up our lives by altering the way we perceive the world.

I tend to concentrate on the negative, to see only blackness and dark whereas what I should be doing is searching for light, for warmth.

Yes, in many ways the world is a shitty place and we are a shitty species. But it isn’t really our fault. We have evolved in a brutishly simple way – to survive. Is this any more our fault than the violent nature of the lion or the fox?

Lettersquash argues nobody has deliberately created the evil Matrix in which we live and that there are no grand conspiracy theories which accurately reflect our society and our lives. There is no evil capitalist plot, no one is determined to screw the planet or its population. It is just that most if not all of us act purely out of self interest. And I feel he is right.

So cast away the concept of “fault” (and evil, if you so choose) and look for people who are doing good things. People who are nice, and wholesome and worthy.

I am told by my friend John that there are good things going on in the world. When I spoke of the horrors of the UK and US penal system he pointed out the enlightenment taking place in Greenland and Scandinavia. There you have it – look to the good and not to the bad. Although we should try and convert the latter into the former. Even if we do not believe in absolutes of good and evil, most us can recognize what is wrong when we spot it.

I have been reading another blog recently and am coming to see where Keith is coming from. It isn’t god out there, just reality. Which is equally wonderful and just needs to be found. As he says, it is not “mystical” if it is real and I am coming to believe that perhaps his reality is “real”.

What prompted this latest nonsense of mine? I have been spending a few days in splendid isolation down in the country and as usual the silence speaks to me. I hope that perhaps my perception is changing slightly, that maybe I am beginning to look through the mirror slightly less darkly.

I am prompted to think of the little friends I call Gilbert and George. I had Gilbert and her mother staying for a couple of days and there is nothing better to promote enlightenment than a lovely and intelligent young woman. Beautiful of mind, so far as I can tell. Good through and through like her sister George. Or at least so far as I can tell.

I call them Gilbert and George because ever since they could talk they have finished each other’s sentences and looked at each other before speaking.

I have never heard Gilbert or George speak ill of anyone or anything. Which is especially odd since they have had to put up with their wilfully difficult and odd uncle all their lives. Perhaps I am a cross they feel they have to bear.

I have always naughtily provoked these two into blushing but now they are both young adults I have to try harder. In an attempt to bring a rosy hue to Gilbert’s cheeks I recommended she watched Fleabag. Much to my amazement both Gilbert and George had watched every episode in both series.

That’s called growing up I guess but it has not spoiled the girls or their charm.

It is not surprising I turned out a miserable old fucker. I blame my family in part, although they never intentionally set out to wreck my life.

But with the odd exception they were all warped and damaged in some way. I have long pondered nature and nurture and both have certainly played their role in forging the bars of my cage.

My parents argued incessantly and unpleasantly. It was deeply disturbing. My mother raged at her mother and her siblings; I don’t think there was ever a family lunch when one of them didn’t storm out in a temper . One of my relatives was nicknamed “Moanie”. As far as my mother was concerned the rest of the world was “common” and unworthy. She or (perhaps they – my parents ) fell out with all their siblings and so we became deprived of cousins as time moved on.

Surviving relatives still bicker and worse. Divorce and unhappiness has plagued various of them.

Leaving aside the undoubted genetic component, these people could choose to behave otherwise but do not.

So I must battle to cast off the deep black goggles I am so prone to sport.

Our reality is what we choose to make it.

5 Comments

  1. This entry is rich with precisely the kind of content that makes reading here so compelling at times. Your generosity in sharing links to other viewpoints is notable also, and I too appreciate your inclusion of a link to my blog. I’ve been thinking about this very subject lately and wanted to respond briefly.

    It clearly requires some degree of time and deliberate effort to arrive at a point where we can allow ourselves to let go of whatever might be impeding our progress toward our goals, whatever they might be, and to find a way to cope with whatever limitations or inherited roadblocks that prevent us from advancing as we might wish. Some years ago, I wrote about one way to view the world, which seemed right for me personally:

    “To the attentive eye, each moment of the year has its own beauty, and in the same field, it beholds every hour, a picture which was never seen before, and which shall never be seen again.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson in “Nature.”

    Every year, particularly for those living in regions which experience the full range of seasonal changes from Spring through Winter, Emerson reminds us to use an “attentive eye,” to see the beauty contained in every season. Each period of the year has its particular rewards: the renewal of all life in the Spring is an affirmation of life; the warmth and lush greenery of Summer is an experience of the fullness of life; the brilliant colors and easing of the summer heat provide both beauty and solace at its peak; and scenes of pristine snowfalls and brilliantly clear winter skies at night remind us that all life is finite in one sense, and limitless in another. Emerson also reminds us that beauty is not confined to the temporal world:

    “Beauty is the form under which the intellect prefers to study the world. All privilege is that of beauty;for there are many beauties; as, of general nature, of the human face and form, of manners, of brain, or method, moral beauty, or beauty of the soul.” – from his essay, “Beauty,” (1860)

    One could also make note of how the Spring rainy season creates mush out of the ground beneath our feet, and plagues those of us who may have to deal with high pollen counts and allergies; one might also wish to emphasize the stifling heat and humidity and danger of sunburn in Summer; one might also lament the massive deposit of dead leaves which cover the ground in Autumn, or dread the coming of the bitter cold and freezing of all nature in winter. While both views could be described as accurately stating the benefits and liabilities of each season, it seems to me we ought to acknowledge both and recognize that life is never just one way or the other.

    As you so aptly expressed it, “Our reality is what we choose to make it.” I must admit to having always been mostly an optimist throughout my life, occasionally enduring bouts of darkness and dread for one reason or another, but generally preferring to emphasize the light, both in temporal outward terms, and in looking for the light within also. The connection I feel to all life, and to what I perceive as my commonality with all living entities, is tempered by my keen awareness of the fragility of that connection, and I take nothing for granted.

    Thank you again for your generosity and allowing me to share my thoughts….John H.

  2. Hmm, I was expecting the Left-Right political stance to correlate the other way from what it says on wikipedia. That also makes sense. Right-wingers tend to be more negatively biased, so they feel threats (from things like immigrants, dole spongers, etc., or just change generally) more intensely and want to be conservative to feel secure, where Left-wingers tend to expect people to rub along together well and be decent, and are more progressive because they expect change to turn out better. Or something.

    1. Interesting. I must be an exception to the rule : a negatively biased slightly left of centre bleeding heart liberal.

  3. I’m very happy to see this, and thanks for the link. One thing those with a depressive tendency should be aware of is the cognitive bias known as “negativity bias”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Negativity_bias

    We – probably all animals – are hard-wired by evolution to register threats and problems very powerfully on our mental radar (or just autonomically react to), because these are the things that we need to pay attention to in order to fix or ameliorate. All the enormous range of facts of our lives that continue to support and nourish us can be ignored, because they don’t need fixing, and the environment is generally pretty stable. Those things suddenly loom large usually only if they are threatened.

    Another thought – more conjectural at the moment – is that some of the genetic lottery might be because it suited our ancestral societies to have some people who were particularly threat-aware, worried, “neurotic” types, allowing the majority of the tribe to focus on the daily fun of hunting and gathering without being too bothered by dark clouds gathering or the faint smell of burning trees. Maybe we are a bit like shepherds of the flock, or the sentries in meerkat troops, on the lookout for eagles. So we can be proud of that, and try to manage our disability. Our increased stress is a danger to us, and it’s our personal sacrifice for the group, but we can try not to overdo it.

    There are, of course, also a minority of individuals on the psychopathic end of things, who manipulate and take excessively, not feeling the empathy most feel, and much more risk-taking, because evolution of a social species is a fine balance between individualism and collectivism (this is also a good insight into the left-right spectrum in politics). If there are too many psychopaths, the majority eventually realise they’re being abused and “rebel” (gang up on the a-holes and kick them out or kill them). If there are “too few” (according to the largely inscrutable mathematics of evolutionary necessity), more can survive to pass on their genes, freeloading on the rest. Part of our neurotic shepherding duties may be noticing and calling attention to the psychopaths, whom the general population often fails to notice because they’re too busy doing their own thing.

    1. That makes great sense. I suppose in geological time we have only just descended from the trees so it is not entirely surprising we are still lumbered with this unfortunate genetic junk.

      Out of interest I did very much have to play the night watchman and gate keeper as the oldest child with 5 siblings and a father who was often incapacitated with mental illness. I would attend parents evenings at my siblings schools, get some of them out of scrapes and, increasingly in later years deal with my father’s financial profligacy. Might have been better to be born a psychopath.

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