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Looking Up (Hacking Positivity)  Nov 20, 2012
 
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The Real And Quantifiable Line Between Freedom And Slavery
I powered through this very quickly, so apologies in advance for the inevitable grammars errors.
Stuff like this makes me angry. Depressed people are not negative because the news focuses on crime and destruction. Depressed people are negative because more bad things are happening to them to than the people they are surrounded by. If anything, hearing about murders and seeing natural disasters makes us depressed people less depressed. It shows us how we're lucky and gives us something real to be grateful for. Only a lucky well-to-do fucker sitting at home with his loved ones in a self-constructed bubble of denial would feel uncomfortable about hearing bad news. Yes, I agree that we need a lot more good news in the media, but bad news is not the source of depression or negativity. Bad things happening to you are the source of depression or negativity. And you can only help those who suffer by paying attention to negativity and finding solutions to it, not by turning off your connection to the world and painting flowers on every wall. If you think negativity is the source of depression, you have never been truly depressed. Negativity is a rational response to bad things happening. It triggers positive change and is not something to avoid. Bad things are what need to be avoided, not news of bad things.
His analogy of medical school syndrome is so apocryphal that it triggers an involuntary reaction in my hand to punch Shawn Achor through the screen. It is not the least bit surprising a that a small percentage of people would fear having various medical conditions after discovering that they exist. This has nothing to do with exposure to negativity. It has to do with knowing about medical conditions and being a human being who is very concerned about their health. According to his own logic, we should teach less medicine so that students might never worry about their own health. He only spends a few seconds of his 12 minute talk actually telling us how to be happier. I suspect the reason he powers through his only actual attempt at information so quickly is to avoid allowing anyone to dedicate a few seconds of thought to his solution, which would immediately result in realizing what a load of bullshit it is. Writing lists of things is easy. The list is meaningless unless you actually are discovering new ways to be grateful for things. Discovering new ways to be grateful and actually feeling grateful is the actual challenge. He's essentially says, "Be happier." No shit, Sherlock. I figured that one out myself. Again, anyone can compose a list. He gives us no mechanism for actually discovering gratefulness or positivity.
I would argue that negativity is what distinguishes great people. If you're okay with everything, you're okay with anything. You're okay with never wondering about how the universe really works. You're okay with never challenging the status-quo. You're okay with never innovating. You're okay with letting other people suffer. You're okay with never challenging yourself. You're okay with never improving yourself. You're okay with leading a sterile normal life and simply enjoying whatever basic human pleasures happen to come your way. You end up... okay. All great artists and scientists endured great pain to create their works. You must disapprove of your current state to achieve a higher state. You must suffer the pain of realizing your world is not good enough in order to improve it. Most who have sacrificed their lives for lofty goals have failed, but everyone who has succeeded in actually being a force of goodness has made that sacrifice. They gambled that their efforts might be realized in something exponentially greater than themselves. This is the connection between greatness and suffering - this is why great artists are always tortured. They dared to be negative. They dared to say they were not good enough. They dared to place great weights on their shoulders and attempt to lift them. If you are only positive and never negative, you may have a great life, but your life will never be great. Positivity alone gets you nowhere, because you can never predict and avoid disaster. Negativity alone gets you nowhere, because you never set goals and try to improve your reality.
Depressed people are depressed because they smart enough to know something is not right. Their brain is telling them to fix the world around them while the world is telling them to shut up and be happy with what they have. Well, we should all give our possessions to the poor, move to Africa and live in the jungle. And then we should be happy with the jungle we have. Be thankful for the wonderful creatures that try to eat you and poison you. The last thing I want to see is some lucky Harvard bastard with rich parents and / or the right social connections telling me how to be happy. The last thing I want to hear is some spoiled privileged guy in a suit (sans tie and top shirt button to show us how down to earth he is) who has never known a real challenge, who spends 8 years sleeping with hot college girls, gets his degree, then is asked by Harvard to spend another 8 years sleeping with hot college girls tell me why the fuck I am not happy. Depressed people are unhappy because they are not the lucky Harvard bastard with rich parents and / or the right social connections. They are unhappy because they have great ideas that no one will ever hear, let alone invest in. They are unhappy because they want to try and contribute great art and science to a society that, rather than ever giving them a chance to do so, would prefer to have them working some day job they are completely unsatisfied with. If Shawn Achor wants to see happy people, he needs to invest in those who are striving to do what they love, not piss all over them with his champagne enriched urine. He needs to help those who are wasting the majority of their lives doing what they hate just so they can afford to eat, while their great ideas, their scientific curiosity, their soul of passion, and lust for improving the world rots away day after day until they die alone, unfulfilled, unaccomplished, and without a fair chance. He doesn't have to help anyone. But his only moral alternative is to shut the fuck up, enjoy his own wonderful life, and shut the fuck up.
Before everyone accuses me of simply being a complainer, of not working hard enough - we need to immediately dispel the myth that a person can achieve any improvement to society on his own. This is a completely unfounded dogma that runs deep in our culture and has never been shared by anyone who actually tried to build something great from nothing. All people who achieve something great get a lucky break. No one topples the greatest achievements of mankind from scratch. Everyone who accomplishes is building on the collective knowledge of humanity and (far more importantly) the collective resources of the people who raised them, chose to favor them, believed in them, and ultimately invested in them. Everyone has access to society's collective knowledge, but few ambitious people are ever blessed with resources. I see so many people blessed with that crucial critical mass of resources that allows them to spend all of the time in their day and all of the mental energy on whatever they are actually passionate about, and yet they piss it away, they go to parties, they go shopping, they care only about having fun and impressing their friends. Those who can do, do not get, and those who get, do not care. I have struggled my hardest all of my life to have a chance at creating art that people like. Only in the small gaps of time in which am I not trying to feed myself, in which I am not helping someone else with some random task, in which I am not dealing with a newly dead immediate family member, in which I am not dealing with the latest person who is stealing something from me, in which I am not repairing the latest piece of personal property that the latest person has destroyed, do I have the time to try and do something meaningful and inspiring. After doing the work that I hate, the work that does not inspire me, the work that does not live beyond the day it is done, the work that kills my soul piece by piece, I only have a couple hours of free time each day (as with anyone who works a normal job). That tiny sliver of time is all I have to work with. And whatever few brain cells I have left over after dealing with customers and fixing computers all day are all I have to dedicate towards whatever creative thing I want to attempt. At this point in the day I've lost my desire to even create anything, I've lost most all of my inspiration, but I still force myself to try and do something worthwhile. I work at breakneck speeds (the muscles in my neck literally seize up and my back and neck will hurt the next day) and random organs will experience shooting pains from the stress of trying to do hours of work in a matter of minutes. Occasionally there is downtime and I spend all of it on my creative projects. I dedicate virtually no time to any sort of social life and this adds a lot to depression. And before you try to say depression is needed for art (negativity is, not depression) the most productive time in my life when was when I was the least depressed, when the economy was far better (when food was four times cheaper yet I was still making same amount of money per hour that I am now), when I had the most resources to dedicate toward doing what I actually loved. Tens of millions of people have read my comics, but that is clearly not good enough. All of my popular comics are rehosted and used to drive traffic to websites who make money from artists like myself, while I am still struggling to feed myself and pay rent for an apartment so small that it doesn't even have a bedroom. If I can get millions of people to read crappy stick figure comics created in uninspired slivers of free time, I know I am not wasting that time, and I know (even from experience) that every bit of extra and time resources increases what can be accomplished exponentially. The time that I am wasting is the time that does nothing but pay the bills. It's all about critical mass. It doesn't take much money to free up a person's time and give them the basic tools they need, but it does take the minimum amount of resources. I am not asking for money from anyone, but if you're going to hoard resources, please enjoy yourself, shut the fuck up about my happiness and stop pretending to understand depression, a state you have never truly experienced. All over the world are inspired people, oppressed by the lack of opportunity to express themselves. A couple hours of free time each day may be enough to get lucky and get a few home runs which are seen by millions or even tens of millions, but it is not enough time for most people to do something good enough to reach hundreds of millions of people, which apparently is the minimum number for anyone to take you seriously.
Depressed people want to be happy. But their desire to accomplish something greater than themselves is greater than their desire to give up and simply be satisfied. It makes me sad to think of all that I (and many other people) could have accomplished by now if we were not wasting most of our time trying to find a platform upon which we could try to accomplish. Those lucky people who have, do not realize what they have, and how lucky they are. The luckiest people do not even understand that they are lucky because they have never had the chance to experience true misfortune. They have no concept of captivity because they have always been free enough to fool themselves into thinking the tiny inconveniences of everyday life are serious problems. They are people who have always had friends, boyfriends and girlfriends, and so can fool themselves into thinking that something so small as the pain of breaking up with their loved girlfriend or boyfriend is an actual pain, because they've never known the true pain of never having a girlfriend or boyfriend in the first place. Before you accuse me of not knowing the pain of breaking up with a person I love, I was lucky enough to have one wonderful girlfriend in my life for one wonderful year - just enough to experience love, just enough to confirm that every year without a girlfriend is exponentially more painful than the tiny (insignificant by comparison) pain of losing one. You can always point at someone who has more or less than you, but the amount of resources that it takes to free a person from the mire is a quantifiable amount. It is not a relative concept - you either have any amount above that number and are free and happy or any amount below that number and are enslaved and depressed. That amount defines a real line that each person has. Any healthy person with friends and family who exists above that line who claims to be depressed either has a serious brain disorder or is simply a worthless asshole. Freedom is relative to each person, time, and society, but the line that each person existing in a specific time and society must cross to achieve that freedom is not relative, but is absolute and measurable. That is the real and quantifiable line between freedom and slavery.
Did I mention that Shawn Achor should shut the fuck up?
-swb November 20th '12
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