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A Year of Living Positively -Day 65

B has returned from holiday in her home country and she stopped by to say hello, give me a chocolate bar and discuss the move to our new apartments. Our moving dates are the same and we wish to live in the same general area. We still haven't heard anything about it, so I fired off a message to an administrator in the middle of our discussion.

Prior to the visit, I did some errands. I had time to reflect on the topic of this blog, prompted by some things I was reading yesterday.

For one, I was reading a blog by a friend who is also an English teacher in Busan. She and her husband (K &B) usually write about their experiences and observations about Korea, but today they posted something about their vacation in Hong Kong. The subject of this entry was the problems they had had in getting their return, and how they caused a delay by one day. The passage was several paragraphs long, and they chose to talk about the details of the causes and context of the delay, part of which was humorous considering they ended up staying at the airport overnight and sleeping in lounge chairs, but most of which was rather boring. There was only one small paragraph describing how they spent the extra day visiting more tourist sites and watching the world's largest lazer show over the harbour. The latter must have been thrilling yet they did not describe it. In sum, my friends chose to write about the negative side of the last part of their vacation in Hong Kong and virtually ignored the benefits of having an extra vacation day seeing wonderful things.

Reading this passage on the web brought to mind one of the earliest conversations I had with my last city hall employees class when they were introducing themselves to me during our first class period together back in December. They had just returned from a language immersion stay in California so I asked them to tell me about their experiences. Several of them chose to talk about some of the problems that had incurred during the trip. Now, most Koreans and many people around the world dream of visiting California, and would envy anyone who got an all-expense-paid trip for a whole month, so you would think they would have plenty to describe and share about the trip other than some of the hang-ups of the travel arrangements. 

Even with the technologies and conveniences of travel today in the present era, traveling to another country is still a special time. Travelers go to a relatively large expense and make a lot of arrangements to reach their destination. If the destination is so important to them, why then would many travelers complain about the things that went wrong and what they did not like rather than relish and effuse over what went well and what they did like? 

True, the more inexperienced traveler has a different perspective from a less experienced traveler. The more experienced traveler expects delays and mishaps and little disappointments. The less experienced one, perhaps, figures they have paid for a service and are anxious and upset when there are problems.

Let's step back from the picture, though, and consider that daily life is full of problems. You can expect and should factor into your planning the unexpected, like mistakes, lost items, miscommunications, delays, line-ups and accidents. Most of us who are generally psychologically healthy and well enough socialized accept this. Why then do travelers think that there should be no problems when they travel? The traveler should expect some problems somewhere along the way, and accept it. 

A positive thinker does and does not let herself get upset by the hang-ups; instead, she looks for solutions and tries to see some benefits to the situation. They don't fume over situations that are out of peoples' control, and problems that cannot be undone.

Let's review K's delay in Hong Kong. I'd be happy to have a postponement of the return. Aren't most travelers reluctant to leave, especially on a vacation? With the positive perspective, I'd be eager to share words about the extra sights I got to see. If I'd been witness to an extraordinary event such as the big laser show over Hong Kong harbour, I'd be overflowing with descriptions about it.

I had  positive conversation like that with B about her holiday less than an hour ago; she was saying that she did not get to go out and see friends as she had hoped to do. Rather than complain about this disappointment, though, she chose to describe the joy in seeing her relatives especially the children in her family and talked about all the good times feasting and hanging out with them, adding that it was very cold outside anyway. She dwelt on the positive aspects of her time away.

In all our planning, whether for little events or big events, we should expect problems and always be prepared to deal with them. We should look on the bright side and it is a good idea to always have a contingency plan, a plan "B".

I also happened upon the origin of the term, "positive thinking" yesterday. It was Norman Vincent Peale who first came up with the term and developed a philosophy for approaching life. He was a church minister, and incorporated Christian beliefs into his version of positive thinking. As well as counseling others to look for the good and see the benefits and joys of situations and interpersonal relations, he prescribed Christian faith and prayers to God, and referred his followers to scripture.

I have been thinking about Peale's brand of positive thinking since I encountered it yesterday. Here is what I say about it.

I do agree that faith is an aspect of successful positive thinking. We can employ faith from other than a religious footing, however. We can have faith in ourselves, the majority of other people, and the superior or mysterious powers of the universe. That is, we can choose to believe that there are positive aspects to most situations, and something good in most people, and be empowered by that belief. If we believe it, chances are we are more likely to see it. There is a role for prayer and meditation with or without religion, then.

We can have this attitude without having to adopt a religion and still contribute to the good in the universe and the betterment of human relations and the status of human beings. Scriptures and human institutions are necessarily complicated by politics, economics and the foibles and follies of humankind, including the faults and ambitions of men and women, and are therefore always problematic. We can understand that religion has a place in human lives, regardless of state and policy, cleric and myth, for it helps to  provide moral guidance, refuge, explanations and comfort if we take it at its essence and remove gender bias, nation, politics and economics, and appreciate texts as symbolism subject to the interpretation of men.

In short, an outlook of positive thinking does not require religion. Nor does one have to necessarily compromise a religious standpoint in order to adopt positive thinking. You can adopt a positive view and be even more compassionate, morally conscientious, informed and aware, forward-thinking, industrious, and peace-loving.

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