These days, staying positive is more of a challenge than ever. When we go out into the world each day, we are presented with a number of distinct choices:
Smile at people we meet, or frown
Criticize others at work or praise them
Laugh at the vagaries of life, or become angry and bitter from them
Demonstrate patience and grace, or rudeness and selfishness
The choice is ours.
The same is true of the media. They bombard us with negative messages from the time we awaken to the time we fall asleep at night (or try to fall asleep, because we are most likely fretting from all the dreadful things we’ve heard or read about that day). Just look at any of the news Internet sites, cnn.com, msnbc.com, etc. What do you see? In sum total, you find the inescapable conclusion of: We Are Doomed.
Of course, we aren’t doomed. But it takes a lot of mental energy to tune out all the negative things we encounter. It’s never as simple as the old song from the ‘40’s, “Ac-centutate the Positive, E-Liminate the Negative.” We 2007 Americans have to settle for more modest expectations: “Discount the really terrible, tone down the merely horrible.”
So, why is it so hard for writers and broadcasters to say something nice, something hopeful, something positive? They have a choice, don’t they…
On a small scale, I’ve had some experiences with the media that left me with difficult choices to make. When I was out publicizing my book, THE MAKING OF A BESTSELLER, which is about the road writers take to become bestselling authors, I was a guest on many radio programs across the US. One morning I found myself on a station in Minnesota, in the heart of Vikings country. And the host of the program was a HUGE Vikings fan.
This happened to be in the Spring of 2005, right after the Packers had lost two stalwarts on their offensive line to free agency. Things were looking a bit bleak in Packerland.
The portion of the show devoted to my book went along smoothly, then the host noticed in my bio I had written a novel about the Packers, OVER TIME. He immediately pounced:
Bob the Host: “So, Brian, the Pack’s having a rough offseason, eh.”
Brian: “I suppose, but it’s still early in free agency, Bob.”
Bob the Host: “Yah, but we’re signing star players, and you’re losing ‘em right and left. Any chance you’ll switch over and root for the Vikings?”
There, on live radio, I was presented with clear and dangerous choice: say something positive, or something negative. Just think of all the alternatives I had. I could have answered:
“Sure, Bob. The same chance the Vikings will need to build a bigger cabinet to hold all of their Vince Lombardi Trophies.”
“Sure, Bob. The same chance you cheapskates will build a real stadium instead of playing in the Humpty-Dumpty Dome.”
“I don’t know, Bob. I prefer watching NFL-style football.”
“Sure, Bob. The same chance I’ll give up bratwurst for lutefisk.”
But then, I would be just as bad as all the media personalities I’ve been complaining about, wouldn’t I?
So, I took the high road:
Brian: “Well, Bob, I suppose in this crazy world, anything’s possible.”
I was relieved to find out later that Packer fans in the listening audience clearly understood the coded message: NO LIVING WAY, NOT IN THIS GALAXY OR ANTOHER ONE, NOT IN THIS WORLD OR THE NEXT.