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Our business is rejoicing

I like to think that I'm a positive person.  I like to think that I'm generally friendly, amiable, and easy going.  I like to think I have a good mix of positive things to say among the less-pleasant things.  But I just wanted to take a moment to push back against what I can best describe only as the Disney-esque positive-only perspective that I see from time to time.

I had a couple cousins on Facebook who sometime around a year or two ago made a post something to the effect of "I don't want to see any negative posts in my newsfeed.  If you like being negative unfriend me."  I'm paraphrasing, this is strictly from memory, but it was the gist of the post.  So I unfriended them because I know that a good portion of my posts are negative in nature.  I post things which are critical of religion, of conservative views, etc.  Many of my posts are the opposite of feel-good lovey-dovey posts.  I didn't feel particularly close to these cousins, so it wasn't really a loss.  I had interacted with them in person a handful of times at most.  I doubt they even noticed, since I didn't bother to announce it to them.

Now I don't mean to be critical of positive posts.  I think it's great to express love, to speak glowingly of things that you like, to lift other people up, etc.  I think there needs to be more of that.  What I dislike is the notion that that must comprise an entirety or a vast majority of what one does or says.  I think it's entirely unhealthy--and unrealistic--to insist that all interactions with all persons all the time be positive in nature.  It is summarized by the phrase "our business is rejoicing", which was the climax of Shostakovich's Fifth symphony.  Through music he expressed the oppression he felt under Stalin's rule and his own personal compulsion to be positive and put on a happy face to keep Stalin pleased with him.

I do believe that the world has become too critical, too judgmental, too easily offended.  I think it would be better for people to be more upbeat, more sensitive of others' feelings and simultaneously less sensitive oneself.  I like to consider myself as part of the movement for the increase of positivity--sometimes I do better than others.  But I see real harm in carrying that too far.  I think people need to be able to handle criticism without being hurt or offended.  I think people need to be able to carry on conversations with persons of opposing viewpoints without feeling attacked.  I know a few people who say that they feel attacked anytime they are contradicted, these are often the same people who insist on a 100% positive life.

I believe it is childish to presume that one can go through life with only positive feelings.  In fact, I believe one misses out on the richness of life by doing so.  I suppose what I'm trying to express is best portrayed in the Pixar movie Inside Out, where it is shown how a girl matures from feeling the need to always be happy to realizing that she can incorporate all of her emotions together for a richer experience with her friends and family.

So my philosophy is to enjoy the richness of life.  Laugh, cry, yell, sulk.  Get angry at people, be disappointed in people, praise people, love people, hate people.  It's all part of being a person.  It's part of being alive.

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