Monday, January 26, 2015

Glass Half Full to the Brim

The Golden Age Fallacy has always been popular with unhappy people, but the romanticization of the past has intensified recently because of the overall level of comfort we have reached as a species. I won't minimize the severe poverty in certain parts of the world, because it exists and it is horrible, but for the vast majority of us, especially in America, everything is easily available. That's not a bad thing (netflix and air conditioning are awesome!) but we find new things to complain about that look absolutely petty when compared to many of the complaints of the past, or when compared to people with real problems in the present day. All of this is so common and pervasive in our society we even came up with a trendy hashtag term for it: #firstworldproblems. The phrase was intended to spotlight how petty these complaints are, but, it has evolved into just another opportunity for privileged people to still complain about petty bullshit, showing the power the privileged have to ruin everything.

There's something about the human brain that makes us focus on the negative. Or maybe it's just a natural reaction to the overall shittiness of the human condition. Despite our relative comfort, life is hard. Death is inevitable. We complain that the glass is half full, when in reality it's never full. Nothing is exactly how we want it. There is no utopia, and a half full glass is more than enough to quench your thirst. Drink it. It will quiet your complaints for a while.

Plus, there are beautiful things happening all around us, all the time. Even some privileged people use their powers for good.

Appreciate one moment, any moment, as much as Wes Bentley enjoyed that bag.

I always loved the idea of karma, and the idea still means a lot to me personally, but I've come to the sad realization that there is no karma in this lifetime. It's certainly not immediate anyway. The fact is, the only reason to treat people well and to be good is, well, to be good. There's no real reward; being a good person is its own reward. Bad people get away with shit all the time. Their actions hardly ever "catch up" with them. It's a great notion to think that people will pay for their actions, it's why the idea of heaven and hell is so popular, but in reality, "bad" and "good" are not objectively quantifiable. You can get arrested for doing certain things on one side of an invisible line that won't get you arrested on the other side, just like doing something in one time period would make you evil in another. Getting into heaven would largely depend on when you died and who was manning the gates.

Motivation to be a good person shouldn't come from a desire to stave off hellfire or as a way to gain positive karma points. Once they become habit, the benefits of positive thinking and living are obvious. It's not the magic that pseudo-psychologist self help gurus make it out to be, but it does make for a more satisfying existence. There are moments of relapse into negative thinking, and it takes effort to maintain consistency, but it is possible to keep the scales tipped in favor of positivity. The hardest part about treating people well and not responding to negative behavior with more negative behavior is the lack of immediate satisfaction, but even that is something that gets easier over time. 

In an era that emphasizes instant gratification and encourages the voicing of meaningless grievances, it's important to see the long term benefits of positive thinking and acting, and the importance of shutting the fuck up every now and then.

I Love You All...Class Dismissed.

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