Jul 20 • 14M

A cult of positivity

making gold out of denying life

Open in playerListen on);
A break from bad news for bites of other pleasures.
Episode details
A break from Louisiana Museum’s Art on social media. Photo: Rachel Marie Wolfe Ammann 2017

The cult of positivity has seemingly good intentions. Within certain mental frameworks and orientations, people can encourage their personal trajectory with focus toward creating the goals they wish to realise. The counterparts to this activity when out of balance, and pressed upon others tends to lean toward stress, wishful thinking, or perhaps the really nasty canceling culture. As in we cannot fool mother nature without fooling ourselves, intrinsic motivation creates movements more synchronistic than extrinsic motivation.

I often wondered where the root of the idea of the “Universe” came from and how it was permitted to overtake the public mind. Quite often I’ve found the taboo as compass to the fear, and in this case the fear of saying the word “God.” In that the idea of the personal as universal has roots in Orthodox Christianity, sliding in Universe in place of God made the notion of the personal as universal more culturally acceptable. Meanwhile, this use of Universe allows for depersonalisation, and in that further obfuscating individuals from fully forming the connection within themselves. Therefore the parroting of phrases, without deeper introspection often feels a bit like scum, or that foam that forms on top of the ocean. The kind of knowing based on feeling points toward the notion of the Universal, as used in pop culture, as being the basis of self divination. Something Western cultures are celebrated for allowing. So instead of saying “God” (which happens to mean good in Norwegian), people say “Universe.” And the Universe, actually then is yourself. But a self divorced from the self and ensuring survival through social constructs instead of from intrinsic motivation. Is it not self-apparent to witness the difference in performance when someone wants to climb a mountain versus when someone is cheering them on to? Both people may experience fear, but the one with intrinsic motivation may get closer to the top, than the one that peters’ out down at the bottom, or doesn’t get started at all.

There was a time I too was duped into "Universe" sensationalism. I had believed I was connected to my body, but it was really through a 7 years process I got connected to my body in a way that was really unpleasant. My body hurt, was in pain, and suffering - not by anyone’s hands but by choosing to do things that were simply not easy. No one was opening the door for me as I had grown up with, I was barely allowed to do the work I had worked decades to be permitted to do too. The notion of self-determinism was being smooshed under some kind of invisible force, and the weight of social energy, forced me to look at the ideas around what is right or to use the forbidden word, God, yet as I mean it: Good.

In the sensationalist universe, or abjection of the personal in favour of a depersonalised system, the idea is that if there is resistance, that is a redirect. This was the most common advice I received. And furthermore, I was stirred deeply by my great great grandmother’s work against national socialism, as she foresaw the dangers to individual lives. So I wondered, why I did not quite have the connection to my life in a way I need to have because I was lacking the knowing feeling, a sense of certainty and had to find out how to more fully decide. Since my relatives who survived much harsher conditions and treatment, their resistance to tyrannical and oppressive social movements during WWII are present day marginalised facts of life. The bigger social pictures, shapes and forms, is that those ideological battles are all around us, on social media, in plain sight. Yet instead of it being obviously horrific as is the treatment of physical violence in war time, the invisible horrors become increasingly difficult to deliver to anyone else’s minds. So it really is not that bizarre to see societys of plenty also lack trust. Yet the root of trust comes from within, and it is something that is given, and something given are acts of grace. Herein the notion we treat others as we treat ourselves isn’t always true, as anyone can witness individuals performing great self-care and preservation and treating others with distressing levels of ignorance which performs as ignored. To make it plainday, I witnessed posted stories on social media about someone falling off a bike in Oslo, or being hurt and no one coming to see if that person was ok. The release of criminals after 9 months of comfortable confinement sounds unthinkable, well, it happens. The news, after all, isn’t here to report the truth anymore, but shroud minds in stories. An overwhelmed populace can snap out the trance; is it effort? I would say just as much effort as it would have taken David to touch the hand of God…just a little reach. The dandy in repose then, fails to connect, not only externally as the famous painting depicts, but also internally, and the LOST monster, you know that big black smoke that snuck up on people, becomes a social phenomena. These kind of boogie mans are not as powerful as they seem though and definitely have nothing on being fully embodied and able to shine light on what is what. And while I could say, think for yourself, perhaps it’s not even ethical of me to concern myself with what you are doing, let alone thinking. Thanks for sticking with me thus far.

Continuing on, based on the magnetics of the feeling of knowing, I had to really look at how I was socialised and educated to be passive, which invited misuse. Not standing up for oneself for the sake of being nice, really got me in quite a hole, one without any rope or handles to get out of. Once in the hole, then I had to figure out if digging the rest of the way through was worthwhile…and that’s what I’ve done because at a certain point, it was not apparent which way was out. Metaphorically of course, yet I also did go ahead and root around in caves. I reasoned, if I’m already this deep in it, why not face more fears in the endless darkness? The odd thing was that even in the darkest depths, where no return or surface to be found, the light at the end of the tunnel was hard to make out, since there was in fact a light always within.

The Cave, Blåfargeværket, Rachel Marie Wolfe Ammann

Wishful thinking rarely delivers and so the cult of positivity’s songs of sunnier tomorrows must always be tempered by the reality the nature of time is not friendly, just as magnetics and energy currents are bound to cross.

The people promoting happiness often have another agenda-sometimes something to do with empowerment, sometimes to do with an ideal or image of “how you ought to be.” Happiness can become a badge of success. As if who wants to accidentally cause themselves harm by hanging out with unhappy people. The thing about this orientation in life, is that it creates loneliness, both for the person avoiding connecting with another person going through a hard time, and instills fear for the future knowing, that if one cannot be with someone through hard times, then who would be there for them?

The thing about happiness, is it is not a state of being. Senses and emotions are related to bodily function and idealogical influence. Meditation through tracing lineages of ideas and their formations in the mind and culture opens up the “universe,” in the meaning that the divining agent is indeed the singular voice of the self. And whatever a self is, having nothing really to do with the personality, but more to do with the kind of life and activities one wants to create.

I mean, if one really wants to achieve a perpetual state of being, the main result shall be some form of static. Static is such a great word here, since it’s unmoving and also white noise. Fuzz. The idea of normal can drive a form of stasis. And stasis has some kind of nostalgic romantic ideas, but that’s not life at all. Life, as far as we can tell, are patterns of continual change, with variation of patterns that tend to produce more patterns of results.

Therefore I feel the virtue of the fall, diving deep, much more nourishing than partaking in the perpetual pick-me-up business. A good intention can quickly digress toward internalized self-manipulation or actual harm to oneself or others. Attempting to change things with wishes and vision-boarding alone does not actually empower. Such as energy generates itself through structures and various systems, a person who embraces their power, does not need to take or exert power over anyone.

Empowerment in many senses, disables and asserts a dominance heirarchy. This is why I find it really hard to understand why to ever buy some kind of empowerment sermon. It’s one thing to willfully show up to a congregation and make an offering, but it’s a whole other thing to pay 5000usd or more to "get empowered” on a retreat. This form of cultural escapism really boggles my mind.

The cult of positivity can also contain something more insidious, and that is potential for inadvertent victim-blaming. When people become so busy within their own lives, stressed, and over-taxed, they are not capable of extending a two-way line of communication to people who are seeking guidance,\; strange fantastical occurrences tend to come about.

Excessive emotional taxation, such as the demand or expectation to be nonstop friendly remains pervasive in many cultures as an idea that happiness sells more products. This is simply not true, as there are a number of cultural phenomena that sell well, such as cynicism or S&M. There is also a lot of money people are making in depression. Which led me to wonder, why abject death in the first place. Why make sadness taboo?

The thing about ignoring something is it tends to grow, and the thing about blind spots is they tend to contain objects that get ran into. Trying to outwit cultural waves as they come at us through streams of media, places one on a perpetual hampster wheel- yet I don’t know about you, but I haven’t really felt like a hampster lately. Have you?

The most useful thing I find we all still have available to us, is our bodies. The body has an uncanny ability to provide senses, including proprioception. The thing about those senses of immanence is they are often formed from neurological programming, also known as experience. And that is where memory and holding onto experiences makes our bodies feel like a trap. When in fact, our bodies are our tools to use as the body allows. We are quite literally then working with metaphysics. The meta, or mind, and the physical, our bodies. It’s not so out there, and cosmic then is it? When the universe is understood as you, as a person. Not the personae, but the being.

And the being, no matter if it has all the “normal” parts or not, is. The being is. And the being even with scars, wounds, or whatnot is still whole. This wholeness tends to sensate as a feeling of balance and harmony. And maintaining that tensegrity, is really what being embodied is all about. Tensegrity is often how things appear to hover in space, yet are based on mathematical principles that ring true for all life on this realm, no matter what one believes in, a universe, a multiverse, or whatnot.

So I am curious, is this a big ask? to uncharge taboos around words? to ask individuals to build personal relationships to meaning?

If a dog has its nature that is developed by its companion, owner, caretaker, then DOG gets flipped around to GOD, then the relationship between conviviality, ones own life, and ability to give and receive care…the path toward the light is already here. Even as we face dark times. I would be amiss to blame capitalism, when the evidence points toward the pursuit of control that levers misguided power seekers. In that physics already contains chemistry, I’m built to create more than create solutions that make more problems. And that is the wisdom of the tour-guide in Jamaica, hey mon, there ain’t no problems, only situations. Those little phrases really seem to have magnanimous outcomes toward perceived opponents.

Torghatten, Norway 2018 Rachel Marie Wolfe Ammann

Sited: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35186178/

The School of Life: Things are not how they appear, they are how they are; look deeper. Image from Chicago Botanic Gardens: Rachel Marie Wolfe Ammann 2012