Own the Negative, Discover the Positive

Yesterday evening, I looked through the titles of all the pieces I’ve written on this blog so far. My god, I thought. I ought to be calling this thing: “On All That Is Wrong with Humanity.”

My apparent fixation on the negative aspects of our kind isn’t by design – I don’t plan in advance what I will write each day. Writing this blog is something I do to stretch a muscle. I start with “nothing” – the blank page – and as I type, and delete, and type, and delete, I end up with “something.” That’s as much as there is to it.

Even when I think I know what I’m going to write about, I – more often than not – prove myself entirely wrong. I can be certain of my topic, but as soon as my fingers hit the keys, something else comes out – something completely different and unintended. This unintended thing that comes, however, always feels far more real, far more pertinent – as though made of flesh and blood – than the original intention. I learnt a long time ago that when I ignore whatever speck of inner wisdom I have, I suffer. So I listen to that voice, and I pivot toward writing what’s coming out, not what I thought I was going to write.

Thus, what comes out has a certain organic quality. Whatever I find myself writing about – that must be what I care about, what I’m curious about, what is bugging me, what I’m straining to understand. And overwhelmingly, it seems that I am straining to understand human nature – both the parts we deem positive, and the parts we deem negative. I want to understand the whole picture.

Afraid of your own shadow

When confronted with the elements of human nature that seem at first glance to be “bad” or “negative” our initial response is to run away from them, to hide them, to deny them. And why not? They are scary, after all. They represent the unknown.

The problem is that denying something only serves to make it stronger. When you deny and repress any element of human nature, you don’t stop it existing, and you don’t stop it from causing you harm. You simply divorce yourself from reality, and far from living happily in denial, you are more likely to live in fear of your own shadow.

If, on the other hand, you can develop the courage to look your best and worst qualities square in the eye, especially these darker, harder-to-accept parts of yourself, then you put yourself in a position to transmute them into their positive equivalent. You cannot destroy energy, but you can change its state.

Own the negative, discover the positive

That’s why this blog tends to focus on the negative aspects of human nature – becoming aware of them is the necessary first step to transcending them. If all we do is think of the positive aspects, and deny everything else, we become half-humans, living half-lives. I don’t want that.

The writers I love the most are the ones who have held up a mirror, allowing me to see myself and my fellow human as we truly are – as beautiful or ugly as that might be. Hemingway. Bukowski. Denis Johnson. Robert Greene. If I have an aim with my writing, it’s to pay that forward.

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