June 4, 2012 § 22 Comments
When you’re lost in the rain in Juarez
And it’s Eastertime too
And your gravity fails
And negativity don’t pull you through.
Bob Dylan, “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues”
From countless sources, again and again, we are told that we should seek positivity. Be optimistic. Find joy in all that you do. Surround yourself with positive people. Positivity will extend your life and make you happier. On and on.
I seek the positive, of course. But I also need the negative.
I need to experience weakness, sadness, and despair- full bore. I need to experience those terrible feelings because without them, what would it mean to feel strong, happy, and hopeful? Only when you’ve been to the depths of despair can you experience fully and truly the rapture of those moments of strength and hope.
I also need the negative in another way. Some of the most important people in my life struggle with dark thoughts and self-doubt on a pretty regular basis, as I do. I couldn’t imagine a life where I would turn away from them because they were not “positive people.” It’s not just a feeling of empathy for those exceptional friends and family members. I learn from them; I draw strength from them.
Much that is beautiful and moving in our world came from the wellsprings of darkness. Mozart, Van Gogh, Matisse, Pollock, Tolstoy, Styron, Plath, and countless others labored to create their magnificent art through a lens of despair and darkness. The absence of their work would impoverish all of us.
So, yes, embrace all that is positive in the world. But keep also the space for the negative. If you open yourself to the negative, in yourself and in those around you, it can help pull you through.