Reasons to be positive

It’s easy to be cynical. There are so many reasons to justify it. Politicians, companies, celebrities, governments, who can you trust?

But those are all vague categories of people and organisations. They say very little, if anything, about individuals. And it’s also very easy to be black and white about any one person. But we all have our nice sides and our not so nice sides, our good days and bad days. My experience tells me that most people want to do the “right thing”, they might define it in different ways, but their intentions are usually good.

Part of the trouble is, though, that we want to be judged by our intentions but judge others by their behaviour. The two are not always congruent.

Where am I going with this? I have been reminded recently of the tremendous generosity of some people in giving their advice. In this case, I’m thinking of the internet, itself something with its good and bad sides, depending on how we individually choose to use it. There are so many people willing to share their thoughts, their feelings, even their dreams with us, hoping I think to inspire us by sharing something of themselves, and I wanted to share some of the things I’ve come across which have really touched me.

At the beginning of the year, I found a lovely example of someone from the business world sharing an unexpected perspective via the Harvard Business Review’s website. This short article isn’t something you might expect a management guru to be writing. I printed that off and found myself giving it to a number of people, wanting to share something which had struck a chord with me. I think this is one of those articles that you can read and put into the ‘isn’t that nice’ category, or you can ask yourself if you agree with what he says and, if so, what you are going to do about it again. In my case, it led to me writing down for the first time in too long what really mattered to me, and then making some changes to get closer to it. It remains unfinished business, and it probably always will be, but it’s what I’m trying to do.

There is a statue of Heinrich Heine in Berlin (it took me a while to find it), which has at its base something he wrote:




I’m going to be lazy and use the translation from Stasiland:

“We don’t catch hold of an idea, rather the idea catches hold of us and enslaves us and whips us into the arena so that we, forced to be gladiators, fight for it.”

What a powerful way of describing the impact an idea, a thought, a prompt can have on us.

And then just this week, I discovered two new (to me) websites was for me along the same lines as the HBR article – complete with a manifesto. Did I agree with every part of it? Some bits more than others. Overall, I thought it was a wonderful example of the power of words to bring ideas to life, to challenge us, to make us think, and encourage us to think differently. Bravo. describes itself as ‘my one-woman labor of love — a subjective lens on what matters in the world and why. Mostly, it’s a record of my own becoming as a person — intellectually, creatively, spiritually — and an inquiry into how to live and what it means to lead a good life.’

What I found really helpful was a series of articles taking the wisdom of some of the great writers and passing on what worked for them. Each one challenged me and made me think about how I could apply it. I had to stop. I had too much to change. Definitely more unfinished business there.

There’s John Steinbeck, Jack Kerouac, Henry Miller and others there. I wouldn’t have known about what they had recorded about their experience of writing unless someone had taken the time to pass it on.

So I’m going to try to be less cynical. There are a lot of wonderful people out there whom I might never meet in person but who are willing to share so freely of themselves that it’s hard not to be touched. Are they perfect? Undoubtedly not. But they’re trying to do something good, and their intentions come through clearly in their actions. Thank you to all of them.

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