Just like with anything else, reflection is an instrument that has to be used with great wisdom, for it can both fulfill its higher purpose, or lead us astray. Need I point out that the road to hell is paved with good intentions?
Our purpose in life is to know and worship God, which means that reflection should bring us closer to Him. We know that God is good; so how can spending the bulk of our time dwelling on the dark side of things bring us closer to goodness? It’s like trying to see the beauty of a flower by looking through the compost bin! And yet, thinking of the conversations I have had or heard about in the last month or so, I realize how much we tend to dwell, almost obsessively, on the negative things in life. For the sake of fulfilling our dual moral purpose (that is, of improving ourselves and society), we will dwell on the mistakes we made, the negative relationships in our lives, the bad things that happened during our day.
Please note that I said “dwell on”, not “talk about” the negative things in life. I am not extolling an approach that ignores all the negative, just questioning the habit of only or mostly looking at the negative, looking on what we are lacking and trying to acquire it. Our intentions are good, for we are reflecting on these things in the hopes of learning from them. However, constantly talking about the negative ends up bringing and keeping us down. What if instead, we chose to acknowledge these bad things, then reflect and build on the positive things that can help us overcome these negative things?
Not dwelling on the negative but instead building on the positive seems to be a challenge not only at the level of the individual, but also at the level of society. I am thinking of the news and shudder to think what aliens would think of us, were they to intercept our telecasts! They would get the impression that Earth is only a place of war and contention. Think about our intergalactic reputation!
But of course, we are so much more than that! Just this week, amidst the terror and horrific destruction in Moore, Oklahoma shone extraordinary acts of heroism. Similarly, in any city with high crime rates can be found inspiring stories of redemption and community-building; even in war-torn zones can be found stories warms the heart. There are glimmerings of hope in all corners of the world.
To push the thought a little further, just like darkness is the absence of light and not something tangible in itself, there is no such thing as an “uncommunity.” If there is no light in the room, one would not think about how to remove the darkness. Rather, one would think on how to add light. Similarly, if there is no community, one does not think about how to remove this “uncommunity”; rather, we would think about how to build one. And when one builds a brick house, one does not use weak, broken bricks: we use the sturdiest, most perfect ones possible.
It is the same when it comes to personal reflection. If we are “mines rich in gems of inestimable value,” focusing on the rocks will not lead to much polishing of our spiritual gems. We should of course acknowledge the reality of the rocks, but focus on the gems: finding them, extracting them and polishing them. If our higher nature is the light we are hoping to shed on all aspects of our being, focusing on the darkness of our lower nature will not really help, will it?
Thankfully, this only requires a change in perspective that would do wonders for our intergalactic reputation. This change begins at the level of the individual, and comes back to something we have all heard many times: that the glass should be half full, and not half empty!