I can see that something is missing in most people’s lives. That search for meaning and emptiness doesn’t apply to my own, but I am working on understanding it in other people’s lives. I am as happy as I have ever been right now. There is no event in the near term that will change that outside of some form of a catastrophe.
Society as a whole seems to be consistently less happy though.
How does the world appear worse to people while at the same time being better by every metric? It is something Steven Pinker has talked about and will be covered in depth in his upcoming book, Enlightenment Now.
I’ve been thinking on this subject a lot but I think it is pretty obvious. Negativity bias means that we will always put a higher importance on negative things. This bias means we will remember one negative thing over 100 positive things. There also seems to be some effect of people searching out the negative and preferring it.
It is something that I do, but luckily the negative things I get stuck on don’t make me unhappy. I choose negative things to dwell on that aren’t in my household or sphere of influence. The things that I think about negatively shift around and I try to turn them positive. I think this helps me a lot, because I don’t get stuck on a negative thing. I either make it positive or remove it eventually.
There is a dry cleaning place that my wife uses. I tend to be the one to drop off and pick up her clothes from there. The lady working the counter tonight asked me if I had children, and then proceeded to ask me about how I feel about the school shootings that have been happening.
I told her it didn’t matter to me at all. Statistically, my daughter was unlikely to die in a school shooting. It would be a car crash.
She was still concerned, saying that those kinds of things could happen and were happening more frequently. I asked her how many people she knew who had died due to guns. Further, how many had died in a school shooting?
I could tell she was unmoved, but she placated my argument and her concern by changing the subject to how someone could shoot people like that. My answer was basically we don’t know, and that is what is scary. We agreed in the end, but it frustrates me that I can’t help someone stop thinking about things negatively.
Life and the Positive
I am thinking I will try to focus my writing on more positive things. I am not going to stop writing about negative things, but I tend to pick my topics from things that are rattling around in my brain. The writing helps me to understand my own thoughts.
I think if I write about more positive things it will result in a better blog for people to read. My writing is mainly for myself, but it would be nice to have a few things I would be willing to share with my daughter in a few years.
Is there More Positive than Negative?
I think it is clear that humans don’t work in the way that we naturally think they do. Whether it is the idea of the blank slate (Pinker again) or negativity bias, we want our brains to work a certain way. Our brains just don’t.
The positive we have in the world needs to outweigh the negative. It is also clear that different kinds of negatives are things that our brains deal with better.
I feel like many people find their “meaning” in reveling within the negative. It doesn’t make them happy. They are miserable for it. I think it is obvious they are stuck there and can’t get out.
People will ignore the positive and make others see the negative that they see. It isn’t healthy for anyone involved. It results in social isolation on many levels.
Everything is Improving
It is rather interesting how even intelligent people will disagree that things are improving. It is hard to find metrics where things are getting worse. There are new and negative phenomena to grapple with, but that is life. Fewer people are dying in car crashes while more are dying in school shootings.
That means someone died in a car crash every 15 minutes in the United States. For mass shootings, someone died once every 15 hours approximately.
This is a single example of how the media shows a distorted reality. It is why I don’t spend my time reading the news any longer. To see what is really going on, you should spend time with family and friends. It will inform you more productively than the media ever will.
The world is improving. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Them making you and others believe that can reverse the trend. It isn’t a rule of humanity that life improves.