I was talking with a friend last night and I asked why many people are so negative, why the human brain steers itself toward negativity and why society reinforces it. It’s acceptable and encouraged to verbally slaughter the person you just met, food you ate, movie you saw, or day you’re having – maybe just your life in general. The response he gave me was unexpected and brilliant: we need negativity in order to improve.
My brain reeled back for a second. Negativity is useful? But I enjoy hating it so much! 😉
I could see truth in it: mistakes are fundamental to learning, so why couldn’t negativity be essential to improvement? I’ve been taught that the brain is wired to keep you safe, which also means comfortable. Risks equal danger and our brains don’t want either. But does that mirror reality? As a species, aren’t we explorers? Adventurers and risk-takers?
We manipulate our environment to make ourselves stronger, faster, healthier, safer. We like to believe we conquer space and oceans and knowledge. We constantly strive for more understanding of the unknown, and there might be a possible argument that we continue to improve our morality. If we truly thought everything was great and fantastic, there wouldn’t be a need to create anything greater . . . right? If we created the best movie we had ever seen, would we still try? I think we would, but maybe it’s simply because you can never please everyone. You can’t even ever completely please yourself. There’s something deep down, at the very core of us, that constantly wants more. Better education, better equality, better communities, better sustainability. Even when you’ve completed a project that you’re proud of, isn’t there that small voice that whispers “Do it again, make it better. Bigger and better. Smaller and more clever. There’s a stunning twist you haven’t thought of yet that will change the game!”
It must be hard for people to see both sides all the time. Life isn’t always perfectly balanced and even our strengths become a problem when unbalanced. I believe all things are this way. Just because something is good for you, doesn’t mean that more is better — sometimes it’s just more. Sometimes it’s detrimental. So I can understand people viewing the constant desire for “more” as a negative quality. However, it’s the beauty in all of us. When used properly, it pushes us to be better than the best. Our unrelenting desire for more gives us hope to believe and wings to dream ways out of the so-called “impossible.”
Take our natural resources for example. We keep being told there’s a crisis of ____ (whatever generation you’re from I believe you can automatically think of a resource. Currently, let’s take oil). We’re going to run out! We can’t renew it and our economy will be over! But what would be reflected if that claim mirrored reality? Prices! Our prices of all our non-renewable resources would be going up, but statistics show the opposite: that prices are steady or declining over time. Are you wondering why? We’re smarter! We invent our way out of the problem. You name the resource, we’ve found a way to conserve it and invent a new technology to replace it. It’s beautiful. But notice the delicate balance. Just because we’re intelligent doesn’t mean we slaughter the natural resources we have because we’ll just find a way out of it – we didn’t just sit on our asses and not do something about it!
So perhaps negativity and positivity are ideally intertwined and balanced. Perhaps it could be like water: self-reflecting, pure in intention, refreshing and life-sustaining. Possibly, it could even be literal: one negative and two positives.. universal solvent and yet universal building block.
This excerpt is from a short article that I love about realizing the power of water:
“Right then — at that moment — a thought suddenly struck me; was not this water the very essence of gung fu? Hadn’t this water just now illustrated to me the principle of gung fu? I struck it but it did not suffer hurt. Again I struck it with all of my might — yet it was not wounded! I then tried to grasp a handful of it but this proved impossible. This water, the softest substance in the world, which could be contained in the smallest jar, only seemed weak. In reality, it could penetrate the hardest substance in the world. That was it! I wanted to be like the nature of water.”
I hope all of you will get the chance to spend some time outside this weekend. It couldn’t possibly be more gorgeous outside. 🙂