“You’ve got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mister In-Between”- Johnny Mercer, 1944
This is a love story of sorts.
When this catchy tune was written, America was in the thick of World War II, which was hardly a time most people were feeling warm and fuzzy. The Great Depression was still a fresh memory in most people’s minds, and everyone knew someone– a family member, a friend, or at least an acquaintance– that had gone away to fight the Axis powers and may not ever be coming home. There was rationing, and women who had spent their lives as homemakers became factory workers, filling positions vacated by men away at war. Polio struck the masses regularly, causing death and disability; the Salk vaccine was still over a decade away. It was hardly a time of hope and sweetness: in many respects, not so different from today.
Our problems are different in 2021, but not so different that we cannot draw parallels. There was much reason for despair in 1944. There is plenty of reason for sadness in 2021. I am writing today to ask you to accentuate the positive. Before you stop reading and think that this is another naive post about positive thinking, bear with me, because it isn’t. It is something else quite entirely.
Kierkegaard said, “Life is a mystery to be lived.” He didn’t say life would be fun, or hard, or exciting, or horrendous, because it is all of those things. As I look back to the very darkest days in my life, when there was so much sadness I thought I would drown in the very mire of it, I realize that I am still standing, still here, still feeling both anguish and love, both hurt and happiness. I have optimism not because I pretend to not see what’s wrong in the world, but because I know that love and kindness win in the end. I have optimism because I know that dark days make the bright ones seem that much more brilliant in comparison.
“You’ve got to spread joy up to the maximum
Bring gloom down to the minimum
Have faith or pandemonium
Liable to walk upon the scene.”
These days may be the hardest, most mixed up ones you have ever experienced. There may be many things that you have little or no power to change: illness, loss of employment, betrayal, poverty. Life on even the very best days can be hard, but I hang on to the hope that there are better days ahead. Although I may disagree with others about politics, religion, faith, and what the best movie on Netflix is, I have to remember this:
“While I know myself as a creation of God, I am also obligated to realize and remember that everyone else and everything else are also God’s creation.” Maya Angelou
I don’t always like to think that those who think the opposite of me are God’s creation, but they are. And I must accept that, even though my stubborn spirit wants to say “Hell no!” I have to open my heart and find the good, even when I would rather just write people off. I also hope that those who think I am just this side of the nuthouse will remember this about me, too.
Even though it is currently 3 degrees outside and insanely cold, the sun is shining. And even though I can’t do half the things I would like to do because of the pandemic, I know that the end is in sight. Spring is coming, and this virus will die down. We must look for beauty in the chaos, darkness, and hurt, and most of the time, if we don’t give up, we can find it. Find something or someone to love today, be it a puppy, a person, a good book or a piece of cake. Love the people who are helping those less fortunate, and give money to their causes. Call someone you haven’t talked to lately. Smile at strangers underneath your mask– it will show in your eyes. Live your mystery, and don’t give up. Spring is coming.