No matter how much water is in a container, any small amount of ice will float to the top of it. In the same way, no matter how much good is in the world, the little bit of bad tends to float to the top of your attention.
I say this because it is important, even vital, that you should hear it. These are truths, and they are important truths.
- The world is very good. There is far, far more good than bad. For every bad person doing a bad thing, there are ten thousand people doing ten thousand good things. There is more peace than war, more prosperity than poverty, more love than hatred, more beauty than horror.
- Even as good as the world is, it will be even better tomorrow. The world is not only good, it is improving. We grow in material wealth, longevity & health, knowledge & understanding, wisdom and compassion.
- You – yes you – contribute to the growth of goodness. You are good. If you hold yourself to certain very basic moral principles, you always will be, even amid your mistakes and setbacks. The world is better because you – yes you – are in it.
Those three things are true. They are true despite the fact that there are problems – and always will be. The problems get solved, so we search for new ones; this is both part of the mechanism by which the world improves and part of the reason why we don’t always believe it. The very fact that we always find new problems makes us believe that they are insurmountable, but it’s also why we’re so great at being great!
When people tell you that the world is worse than it was, they are either lying or wrong. When people tell you that there is something wrong with you, specifically, they are very likely being manipulative for their own ends. When people tell you that despair and ennui are natural responses to a world on the brink of destruction… well, those people are among the villains, quite frankly.
Commiseration is a powerful force. Sharing in triumph takes both effort and confidence, and not everyone cultivates those traits. Sharing in misery only takes a statement of misery, so people sometimes just take the easier route to bonding, since bonding is usually the most base motivator of all humans. And “misery loves company,” as they say. So here is how the pattern works: someone finds that effort and confidence are too hard, so they’re miserable. But they still want to have a social relationship (know your Maslow). So they first invent a reason why their failures aren’t their own fault. Next, they validate that reason by projecting it onto others (after all, it’s less likely to be a made-up excuse if it affects more than just myself). This means they’ll try to convince other people that they have this particular excuse as well – and that’s an alluring bottle of snake oil. Soon they’ve convinced you that you’re part of a very “identity of failure” that can’t be helped in any way, and you in turn start to spread that to others.
When someone succeeds on their own merits, it threatens the entire house of cards. You don’t want to have to face the fact that people really and truly can just go out and have a good life because the world is actually mostly very good and those people – just like you – are in fact incredibly fortunate to live in such incredible and wonderous times.
You need to recognize that pattern. You need to avoid that trap with all your heart, because that trap is one of the few things that can prevent you from enjoying all the treasures of the marvelous world in which you live. You stand before the very gates of a terrestrial paradise, and the only thing standing in your way are a group of people telling you that it isn’t, because they themselves have not the courage to enter.
Do not ever – ever – let unhappy people convince you that their way is right. The world is too good.