There is a price to be paid for developing the skill of critical thinking. Its practice may cause us to focus on seeing the negative. In order to appear wise, we strive to unveil what is hidden, or lacking, in the ideas presented to us. (In so doing, our perception becomes more narrowly focused on negative reactions to what we perceive.)
Once it was possible for this negativity to be pretty much confined to academic discussions, news op-eds, and a few people whose sole interest in life was complaining about everyone and everything else. Today, it is more likely for everyone to attempt to outdo the latest—and possibly extremely well-constructed—rant against their chosen evil, or injustice, and the challenges from those who disagree. It only takes moments to put our latest and best critical assessments of anything on line, for the world to see and challenge, immediately. In order to keep the cause at the forefront, we almost have to live and breathe not only the reality of what is happening, but also keep up with what is being said about it. Sometimes, we reach the point where we just can’t listen or read any more:
When this happens to me, I find that it is because I have neglected my own most important antidote to “negativity overload.” I have forgotten to actively seek and observe HOPE.
There is an old story about the man who entered a stable and saw a young boy energetically (and messily) shoveling manure out of a stall literally covered in that substance. Intrigued by the huge smile on the boy’s face, the man inquired as to what the boy was doing. The boy never stopped shoveling as he replied “With all this manure, I know there is a pony in here somewhere.”
To state the obvious, it is sometimes necessary for us to recognize the signs of hope instead of dwelling on the signs of disaster, and to keep working with those signs until what is hoped for may be seen. We must remind ourselves to seek, and then to see, where hope lies in a given situation. We need to observe hope in the same ways that we observe holidays, respect, and just laws, for example.
Where have I most recently observed hope in an unjust, troubling world?
- Just when I had become so disillusioned with all politicians that I didn’t want to see, hear or know them, I met a State Senator whose integrity is beyond question. Who works ceaselessly to improve conditions in our state, and has led the way to legislation that is helpful and makes sense, despite the inability of other states to do so. Whose smile and warm handshake extends to his eyes, and who actually listens when you talk to him. There is hope.
- Just when I gave up hope of receiving medical care that would take my own unique medical conditions into consideration; when I had given up and accepted that a computer would now and forever come between me and any meaningful conversation with my physician, I met a whole town full of physicians who do not allow a computer in the examining room while working with patients. They make eye contact with their patients, and actually listen to them. And even though hampered by the “15-minute per patient“ rule now in effect in most medical organizations, for that brief 15 minutes your doctor knows you as a person, cares about you, and does his or her very best to help you. There is hope.
- Just when I gave up hope that there would be any way out of the present hysteria over narcotic prescribing and the resultant rise of over 100 million chronic pain patients to the category of “discriminated against” and therefore oppressed, I read the following articles:
Education allows you to prescribe with confidence and optimize patient care. https://www.glms.org/Default.aspx?PageID=551
And an even more exciting concept:
Basic Pain Care Certification
The first article provides for physician access to the latest information about pain management certification; the second is the strongest hope that I have observed that we can substantially address the problems of drug abuse and addiction, and still safely care for the needs of millions of patients with chronic pain. The reasons are outlined in the article.
Right now, this is a hope observed. Like the little fellow in the stable, we have to work for it to make it real. But all the signs are there: as the boy said, “there is a pony in here, somewhere.”
What is the HOPE you need to observe around you?