We don’t want to look too closely at bad stuff. We might see something we don’t want to see. Certainly we don’t want to talk about bad stuff. Someone might say something that makes us think, hey! I resemble that remark. Why ruin a perfectly good delusion? Now, of course I am not suggesting that anyone who reads this blog is a bad person. On the contrary, my human readers are awesome. So awesome, in fact, I keep writing just for the chance to experience your awesomeness.
Every day I read and write. A majority of this is for school. All of it is good, but some of it is bad stuff. What the heck does that mean? Well, it means learning is good, even when it is about bad stuff. The reason I think it is important to learn about bad stuff is so we can tell the difference between bad stuff and good stuff. You may be asking who am I to say what is bad and what is good? I’d like to propose that what is bad and what is good is not as important as the difference between the two. How can we tell the difference? By learning as much as we can about as much as we can? By paying attention to what has already been learned and reported by thoughtful people? By getting picture in picture so we can watch CNN and Fox News simultaneously?
I am not the devil’s advocate.
When we look at human behaviors, we can see which behaviors lead to positive outcomes. Reading is a behavior that leads to a positive outcome. Well, that is unless we read something that makes us sad. When we become sad, we might withdraw from our friends and family. We might stop showing up for work. We might sit for hours staring at the walls, eating only Doritos. Don’t get me wrong, I think Doritos are good, but sitting alone day after day, eating bags of them is bad. How can it be that ingesting something good can lead to something bad?
That is an example of too much of a good thing.
What if we read something that makes us angry? Is getting angry bad or is it good? My favorite answer is, it depends. It depends? On what does it depend? The argument goes… Anger is bad. Everyone knows it. Anger leads to violence, and we know for sure that violence is bad. There is nothing worse. Yet, humans often turn to violence as a way of getting what we want, and isn’t getting what we want good?
Once again, it depends.
So, I think it is the difference between what is bad and what is good that is more important. What is the difference? The difference between what is bad and what is good is our response, and it is our response that makes all the difference.
You may be thinking I am just messing with you. I’m not. I promise. I will try to prove it.
Much of what I read makes me sad and angry. Not the same kind of angry as texters behind the wheel of their mobile phones, but the kind of angry that prompts me to investigate what I can do, if anything, to change a situation. Obviously I have no control over bad stuff going on in the world. I do have the ability to exercise control over my response to bad stuff. Which as I said, I think is more important than what is bad and what is good. But before any of us can decide how to respond to bad stuff, we must look at the bad stuff and we must talk about it. Where do we find bad stuff? Cable news? Google? Social media? Do we know bad stuff when we see it? Do we recognize it because it makes us sad or angry or even afraid? What do we do when we are sad or angry or afraid? Withdraw? Lash out? What if we took our collective knowledge from the research data over the last bazillion years about bad stuff, bad stuff that anyone with a heartbeat could recognize, you know, bad stuff like poverty, fear, and ignorance, and what if we decided to respond in a way that made a difference?
***Philip Zimbardo’s presentation contains images which may make viewers sad or angry.