Let me say from the outset that I’m not a particularly positive person. That came out wrong. I’m not a negative person; I suppose I’m not the sort that one would describe as being ‘bubbly’.
My twitter timeline lately seems to be full of ‘everything happens for a reason’ type comments. You know, those ‘bad things are put there for us to grow’ sort of stuff.
I think it’s a load of crap.
Why must every bad experience be a precursor to something good? It’s nonsense. It defies logic.
That somewhere in a cell in Guantanamo Bay there’s a guy deprived of sleep for 40 hours, scratching at the scars and thinking how great the upside is going to be is just ridiculous. That somewhere a toddler has just been fished out from the bottom of a swimming pool or a child extricated from the wreckage of a car smash and the mother is thinking that it happened for a bigger reason is beyond me. (Let’s not go into the ‘God’s will’, head in the sand mumbo jumbo.)
I’m not suggesting that the human spirit cannot persevere and build a life out of the carnage of experience and go onto achieve great deeds and thoughts. That is part of the human condition; that it does persevere, but does it look back in gratitude at the past? – unlikely.
Look, those inspirational speakers with their ‘if I didn’t start out life in a ghetto’ have a point, but most often it is exaggerated and more than a little trite. Negative experience can result in the greatest triumphs of the human spirit, but so can positive experiences. It’s not an exact science.
We seek out the negative circumstances in people’s histories to hold higher their accomplishments. ‘The doctor said she’d never live and look at her now’. Blah, blah, vomit. ‘He was the child of a millionaire and took his father’s riches to build an empire’ type story won’t make the papers.
The fact is that not every cloud had a silver lining. Bad shit happens to good people for no good reason and with no upside. Ah, you say, look at Mandela. True, I say, his circumstances moulded his future, but what about Biko and the thousands of others?
There’s a lesson in bad experiences? Personal growth to be had? Yup, possibly, some of the time, but sometimes bad things are just bad. You get screwed. No lesson. No upside. No growth.
Be positive, count your blessings, look on the bright side, but remember that some things have no upside. They are there to be endured. They may not shape you positively, they may leave deep scars and they may ruin you life or relationships.
For me the lesson is that pain is inevitable but suffering is optional. You may not get anything out of it but at very least don’t suffer it.
Because, in the best of all universes, shit happens.