There was a time when I thought a small-scale enjoyment in a world so filled with suffering, was a crime. It was hard to take a bite of a good meal, see my fridge filled with food, hug my healthy children, rest in my bed with clean sheets, without pangs of guilt. I believed I should sustain a little misery honoring the mournful & the unjustly treated in the world. But over the years, I´ve seen what leads to positive change & what doesn´t.
I´ve become sort of a joy hound. I now agree with the poet Jack Gilbert: “We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of this world.” This isn´t narcissistic pleasure-seeking, it´s the way to make one´s own life work & give the best to the world.
Almost everyone comes into being wired for negativity. Why? survival mechanism. Say you´re wandering through the woods & fail to notice the pretty wildflowers under your feet. Regrettable, perhaps, but not catastrophic. Now imagine that the thing under your feet is a rattlesnake. Fail to notice & it´s bye bye. Which is why we give the bad things in our lives so much more attention than the good ones. You probably pay more attention to one person who insults you than ten who tell you “Have a nice day!”
You may walk around carrying negative incidents like daggers in your heart, ignoring the thousands of positive things that happen to you everyday. Making positive differences in difficult situations is not easy but it´s incredibly necessary, one powerful strategy is to stubbornly seek gladness to find sources of success & empowerment that fuel change.
But, you may say, while positive thinking around negative situations is all very well & good, there´s pain in this world that doesn´t simply vanish when you slap a shiny smile on. May stubborn gladness be damned, attentively focusing on problems in our own lives & in the world is necessary if we ever hope to improve things. I agree with this argument, I really do, but only for a minute & half. The more you defy your innate negativity bias, building from your strengths, finding relief & embracing delight wherever you can, the more you become a cyclone of peace. The repercussions of living in stubborn gladness are incurably positive. Become that person & you´ll find that in spite of everything, there is music…good music.
Take bread away from me, if you wish, take air away, but do not take from me your laughter…it opens for me all the doors of life – Pablo Neruda