THE BLOG

Saying No to Negativity

05/17/2012 08:12 am ET | Updated Jul 17, 2012

Just the other day, a dear friend of mine wrote me a note letting me know that he was gravely concerned about what he perceived to be my undeniably positive attitude towards things in general. He said that he couldn't help but notice how all of my recent writings had this sort of -- optimistic lean to it, and he worried if perhaps I'd lost my edge. In his words I was, "bursting with positivity" -- as if this were a condition that I might want to work on if I cared to remain stimulating.

I told him not to fret, that I was a far distance away from turning into a full-blown Pollyanna and that even though my edge was potentially as sharp as glass, I could no longer justify its application in my everyday life -- which is true. I explained that -- in my personal life -- I've become somewhat content with things as they are, and that at some point I just began to let go of that feisty desire to engage in conflict for conflict's sake.

Was my friend trying to tell me that he was losing interest in my written word because... I wasn't complaining enough? Perhaps I hadn't blamed anyone for my woes in too long a time -- or maybe my anger was in deficit? I'm still not sure, though I suspect I'm in the ballpark with those guesses. What a sad set of options I have left to work with here. I spent a lifetime getting to the place where my skills as a writer coincide with my personal growth as a human being and suddenly -- I'm rendered a bore. Without angst and hate to drive me, can I still dig deep enough into the dirt to unearth the necessary evils that entertain the masses?

And the dark does entertain, does it not? Ah, the lure of the nasty. Is there anything more appealing than human drama? Think of the thrilling word couplings that we suck on to like leeches: corrupt politician, depraved sex, student rampage, desperate housewife, lecherous teacher, celebrity divorce, botch job, Kim Kardashian...

Whatever would we do if we had to find solace in things peaceful -- and how ironic is that? We want peace, so we turn on the TV and watch something violent, something to take our minds off... off what? Ourselves maybe? Our boredom? Some scour the Internet in search of provocative articles -- not for the sake of the content, but to leave caustic remarks in the comment boxes with the hope that they'll either hurt the writer or at least engage another straggler in a battle of words. And why?

Why can't we say "no" to negativity? Why is it so seductive, so riveting? Is it because it fills a void -- or worse, are we the void? Are our lives so impossibly bleak that if confronted with a glimpse of our reality in the mirror, our autopilot immediately instructs us to escape -- to take the low road because the high road just doesn't do the trick?

We're attracted to negativity because it entertains us, and it does so by giving us the opportunity to delight in misfortune -- a thing no one would bother doing if they were happy. It's not that happy people walk around in bubbles of ignorance; they just know what a mess of self-loathing is involved with all that outwardly projected hate and they avoid it by not participating -- which makes them seem uninteresting.

Even as I write, I'm conscious of the fact that if I'm to keep your attention, I must pepper this essay with... human interest.

But the truth is -- I have changed. I am no longer interested in the non-stop complaint sessions, nor am I inclined to see everything through a glass darkly. It just stopped. I'll save my blood and guts edginess for the fiction I write (which, by the way, you really should read!).

So, it comes down to this: Can I be happy and entertaining at the same time? I guess I'll just have to take my chances, won't I?

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