There is something mildly insane about the notion (widely held, I think) that Life Sucks and Then You Die.
While there is a great deal of religious influence in the celebration of suffering, with which I have great difficulty, there is an argument that it is a natural preference to run from rather than to run to something.
It’s harder work, as you say, to develop a state of mind that fosters joy, gratitude, delight in the small things.
At my age, 66, I am finding this more and more. It is, like my biceps (which are damned well developed) the result of years of effort, retraining and personal work.
Here is one way (of many hundreds) that I cleaned up my environment of That Which Justified Negativity:
Canned Facebook. I got so many videos of burning baby elephants, burnt mama orangutans and dogs with their paws sliced off that my heart was infested.I will never “un-see” that animal porn shit, but I stopped the feed.
That alone, along with shutting down the vicious vitriol of genuinely ill people who were spreading their ebola virus of hate onto every one else in retribution for being born, has gone a long way towards clearing my internal space.
So that I can watch the twin fawns that their mother left in my very safe, forested back yard for two days, drink from my bird bath. Eat my lavender bushes (they grow back). Nestle under my spruce.
So that I can drive my car in the early morning to the gym, windows down, breathing in the breeze and mown grass and late summer rain smells. Where I choose to put my attention feeds the monsters or it fuels my joy.
This I believe is the precise lesson. Learning where to focus, what to think about, and to recognize what we can control: our feelings, our reactions, how we think.
The invasiveness of social media, media in general, ads all day and all that add to our general anxiety, which is one reason I keep much of that tuned out. I only learned very late that we had two more shootings.
I had to wonder, what good does it do me to know this? While on one hand it’s important to understand our world, at what point does that knowledge begin to rot us from the inside out, because we honestly believe (incorrectly) we can do nothing to help or change?
We help and change by shifting our focus to gratitude, joy, happiness. We model this behavior. We treat others with kindness and respect. Such things are infectious. They’re also hard to maintain in a world where we seem to value authoritarianism (Trump) over thoughtful discourse (Obama).
It is always and forever a choice of how we direct our attention.
That doesn’t mean I’m right, Dan. But it seems to make sense, and in practice, it also seems to pay off. Square in the For What It’s Worth column.