“Definition, rationality, and structure are ways of seeing, but they become prisons when they blank out other ways of seeing.” — A. R. Ammons
It’s amazing how we can speak the same language and use the same words, yet we still manage to misunderstand each other.
Let’s say you’re sitting with two friends arguing about nationalism. One is arguing for the importance of having pride and being loyal to their country, the other is equating it with racism.
How would you look at it? Is either party right?
Or are they just arguing two ends of a spectrum without having a clear and mutual definition of the word “nationalism”?
This is usually what happens when words are left open for interpretation.
Having a mutual definition of what the hell we’re actually arguing about is good first step in actually trying to understand each other’s point of view.
I’ve found that one word imparticular has gotten bad rap: negative.
It’s understandable. The word comes with connotations of standing in the way of progress. To a certain degree it is.
However, all it does is to stand in opposition to what’s being said, done, offered, etc.
If someone says to you: “Do you wanna fight?!”
The most common reply would, unless you’re looking for trouble, be a negative: “No.”
“Oh, come on… Of course you wanna fight. Don’t be so negative!”
There are plenty of ways to argue the pros and cons of negativity.
In creativity the term “negative capability” is something people actually aspire to. Rather than following the tried and true, being able to lean into uncertainty while creating something is admirable.
Constructive negativity can be a powerful tool depending on when and how we use it.
I remember reading an article about a blind guy who wanted to cross the Atlantic.
He prepared for a long time and despite ultimately failing, it became an inspirational story of the power of positive thinking.
Years later he said during an interview that he couldn’t quite wrap his head around the fact that people saw him as Mr. Optimistic. He explained further that he’d made several contingency plans and packed twice as much food as he needed.
The extra food came in handy when a storm hit, almost flooded the boat, and ruined half the food.
Had he truly been Mr. Optimistic, he wouldn’t had planned for this.
On the flip side, had he been Mr. Pessimistic he probably wouldn’t have even bothered trying.
We can strike a balance between the two that actually leads us productively forward.
One does not exclude the other.
Do you clearly define things either before or during a discussion just to make sure you’re actually talking about the same thing? How often do you use negativity productively?
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Have a kick-ass ₢eative day!