“There is always light. If only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.”
— Amanda Gorman
During the pandemic, actor John Krasinski created a YouTube series entitled, "Some Good News." From his living room, the actor famous for his role on The Office shared uplifting stories showcasing humanity's good side. Unfortunately, once life got back to normal again, the series went by the wayside. For many, its short-lived presence was a welcomed change. It provided hope during a very dark time. According to the ratings, however, the majority of people didn't seem to care all that much about positive news.
I once had a television network executive tell me, “Positive news pieces are ratings suicide. Even on a slow day, people don't want to feel all warm and fuzzy. They change the channel. Why do you think there are so many crime shows on during primetime?"
Though I hadn't really given it much thought, it makes sense. Until the early 2000s, evening sitcoms dominated the airwaves. In the 1990s, NBC had a Thursday night lineup of comedies they marketed as “Must See TV." ABC had a Friday night lineup of family friendly comedies they marketed as "TGIF." When evening sitcoms went largely by the wayside, families who gathered around the television soon found themselves bombarded with crime stories, dramas, and reality television. These, combined with a 24-hour news media that thrives in negativity and constant access to information at our fingertips, resulted in a society that is plagued with despondency.
Not too long ago, I wrote a post on social media that read: “Alright, so what’s everybody angry about today?” To my surprise the post, intended in sarcasm, started getting replies. People were actually posting their grievances. It wasn’t just a few people, either. Lots of people had a lot of things angering them. Realizing that I had opened a can of worms, I decided it was best to simply delete the post. Perhaps it was naiveté that caused me to believe people would read the post and immediately detect the sarcastic tone in which it was intended. In hindsight, I should have recognized that social media is a notorious dumpster fire of negativity where humor goes to die.
Negativity should not be taken so lightly. It has become the latest pandemic. It’s a sickness. Laughter and general positivity, on the other hand, can be beneficial to one’s health. According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter enhances the intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates the heart, lungs and muscles, and increases endorphins that are released by the brain. Laughter can relieve stress, soothe tension, relieve pain, increase personal satisfaction, improve one's mood, and aid in muscle relaxation. Positive thoughts release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially other, more serious illnesses. By contrast, negative thoughts manifest into neurochemical changes that can further increase stress and decrease immunity.
It’s not that we should foolishly pretend that all is right with the world. As the Reverend Bernice King noted, “Being truthful about the state of our nation and world does not equal losing hope. Hope sees truth and still believes in better. That which dismisses or does not seek truth, but merely grins and says ‘It will be okay,’ is naiveté, not hope.”
Regarding hope, Senator Cory Booker keenly observed, “Hope confronts. It does not ignore pain, agony, or injustice. It is not a saccharine optimism that refuses to see, face, or grapple with the wretchedness of reality. You can't have hope without despair, because hope is a response. Hope is the active conviction that despair will never have the last word.”
The only way we can begin to cure the pandemic of negativity is to inoculate ourselves with hope, love, laughter, and indeed, some good news. Though it was a breath of fresh air, we don’t necessarily need Krasinski’s YouTube program. We need to regard hope as a lifestyle. Watch a television program steeped in mindless humor. Seek out and share positive news with a local newspaper. Do something, no matter how small, to fight injustice. For every negative thing you encounter, make it a habit to deliberately engage in some sort of positive experience. Henry Nouwen tells us, “Hope means to keep living amid desperation and to keep humming in the darkness.”
Let your hopeful hum be especially contagious.
Without laughter, love, and some good news, hopelessness takes hold. Hence, in this age of despondency, maintaining a sense of hopeful positivity is the most powerful countercultural revolution a person can wage.
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