The Power of Positive Thinking

Activity Being Avoided: math. Self-employed people should have fairy godmothers who get off on bookkeeping.
Music In My Head: Our House — Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. I sing it to the cats. They like it, but Esther tells me we lack fireplaces.
Tea Being Drunk: water *sigh*
Books Being Read: Green Grass, Running Water–Thomas King, A Gentle Madness–Nicholas A. Basbanes

A while ago, a student tried to do an essay on the power of positive thinking. It was their first choice of topic.

Positive thinking is very important; positive thinking, they said, is good because it helps you be more positive.

We talked about circular logic.

Positive thinking, they said, is good because it can help you achieve a goal.

We talked about weak arguments.

Positive thinking, they said…

Wait, I said. Lemme get you a book.

The library is stuffed with books on positive thinking. The library is cutting down their print resources by half, but it still requires more than two shelves to hold all the positive-thinking books. The student was unimpressed when I arrived at the table with an armload of what would translate to several hours of research.

The student changed their topic.

Very few cultures or societies appreciate extremes. We cluck our tongues at people who are too thin or too fat, who spend inordinate amounts of time playing video games or reading novels, who spout dogma about a particular deity, who wear clothing too formal or too informal. If someone were to spend all their time thinking negatively, we’d have them committed.

We prefer mediocrity to excess.

Somehow, positive thinking has become a religion, rather fundamentalist in its doctrine. If you have a negative thought, you are weak, have lost control and, therefore, have sinned.

Yeah, no.

Good and evil are intrinsic to this life. We’ve personified both (God and Devil, Batman and The Joker), symbolised both (light and dark, dove and snake). Some of the first words infants learn are bad and no.  We can’t get rid of the negative, no matter how hard we try.

That’s okay, people. Really.

Darkness makes the light such a relief, but there’s also an intrigue to darkness. Like the universe, darkness is infinite and so carries an infinite mystery. We know from experience that light always ends… somewhere, some time.

There’s an irony to the pious positive thinkers wanting to dissuade others from negative thinking–enabling anger, sadness, jealousy, loneliness–as if it might invoke the Evil Eye.

Me, I’d rather receive an evil eye than a rolling one. Perhaps I’m just used to it: the evil eye has nothing on my mother’s thou-hast-done-wrong look. No amount of positive thinking could ward that off….

I find it interesting that we’ll stroke black cats, sweep up the pieces of a shattered mirror, stroll beneath ladders, but not allow ourselves a negative thought.

What then, you ask, is the power of positive thinking? The power is money: self-help writers get to take a lot of Caribbean cruises.

You have a book to fill up your library shelves.

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