Every now and again, my best friend from high school, who currently lives in Toronto, and I get in touch by phone to catch up. When we most recently met up, we recalled some of our behaviour during our formative years with some measure of embarrassment.
“Why?” I asked him, “Was it so important for me to be so angry and quarrelsome?” My life was alright then. I had a decent home and a good, if a little distant, family. I had modest life goals which would, admittedly, change over time.
My friend had a simple answer, “because we were assholes.” While I prefer to think of my younger self as a jackass, he’s not far off the mark. Other kids with similar backgrounds didn’t behave as I did but for whatever reason, I wore my cynicism as a badge of honour throughout most of my teens and twenties.
To be honest, I actually flipped between cynicism and naivety constantly. I can’t pretend I was all jaded when my favourite album in high school was Paul Simon’s Graceland, ferchrissakes.
Despite that, I spent much of my adulthood believing that cynicism is most often the correct response to pretty much everything. It’s only recently that I’ve discovered how lazy an attitude that is. It’s an instant gratification thing whereas being optimistic may take longer to pay off but the emotional rewards may be richer. And science (science!) seems to agree. Of course, there is a line between being optimistic and being deluded, just as there is there is a line between being a healthy skeptic and being a nihilist.
All of this is to say is that I’ve been making a concerted effort to bring more positive influences in my life. This has to do with adjusting my personal attitudes but mostly it has to do with not seeking out things on the internet that I know will do nothing but anger me.
So I stopped reading Mark Steyn in Macleans. He’s a man of no real accomplishment, other than a few books about musical theatre, who asks us, week after week, to join him in his seething hatred of the evil Mohammedans. What can I do about that? Leave a comment on the website, telling him he’s wrong? He’s an inconsequential boor.
And I probably should be angry about this homophobic woman but Charlie Brooker does such a good job skewering her that the situation would hardly be improved by my own mute outrage.
And while I’m at it, I should probably stop overdosing on The Huffington Post which gets me outraged over things that occur in a nation that I don’t live in. At least with Rabble, when I get pissed off, I have option of emailing my MP, which I do, all the time.
After dinner is complete, and the lad has his supper, and we take our nightly walk, and the garbage and recycling is taken out, and the lad has his bath, and the floor is cleaned, and the lad has his bottle, and I read him his story, and he’s put to bed, and the tea is made, I have, maybe, two hours a night of quiet time to myself. So maybe it’s not a constructive use of my free time to watch Real Time with Bill Maher. Even if I generally agree with him most of the time, I find him to be such a sneering dick that it makes me question my own beliefs.
I’m tired of snideness, bile, and smugness as reflexive attitudes. And so I’m going to be seeking the positive, the optimistic, and the constructive.
Yes, I know, I’ll be searching for a while.