Episode 007 – Rise and Shine
“Lately, I’ve been paying close attention to what I truly think and feel. I hold onto thoughts longer. Is it truthful? Is it helpful? Does it need to be said at all?” – Chris DiCroce
Sometimes it’s not about changing the world. Sometimes it’s about preventing the world from changing you.
You’ve heard the expression, if it bleeds it leads. These days, the 24-hour news cycle is full of nothing but doom and gloom.
And that’s because content designed to elicit strong emotions or rage is really good for business.
Why do we keep engaging? And what’s the antidote?
Find out in this episode.
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Until next time, be nice and do good stuff.
Has it ever happened to you?
You hear a phrase or a song you’ve heard a hundred times. Or…you pass by a sign that on any other day is so unexceptional you barely notice it.
But on this day, for some unexplainable reason that phrase, song, or sign hits you differently; something sticks and you can’t stop thinking abou it.
It happened to me… today… and It was just a small wooden sign, unremarkable and difficult to see by the side of the road but I saw it.
Rise and Shine
Then, I couldn’t unsee it.
And I couldn’t figure out what I was supposed to do with it – until I did.
I’m recording this episode on [meniton date]. We’re five months into 2022 and in the United States there have been over 250 mass shootings.
There’s a war in Ukraine. A war on truth and science.
Both Inflation and racial tensions are at levels not seen in decades.
Glaciers are melting and prescious resources are disappearing due to the effects of climate change.
I think that about covers the headlines. Don’t go. I have some other headlines you should hear:
The deployment of huge fog nets are bringing drinking water to hundreds of thousands of villages in remote Africa. Villagers can now irrigate their fields and feed their families.
Libraries in New York are giving away 500 thousand books to kids to foster summer reading.
The city of Houston found a way to place 25,000 of its homeless population in apartments of their own.
An Italian company called, Mold, of all things just invented a low-cost, low-impact solution that can be deployed in rivers all over the world to collect plastic before it reaches our oceans.
You see, If you watch the major news outlets, won’t tell you any of this good stuff.
They’ll tell you, things are bad. Horrible in fact.
They’ll tell you we’re divided and the rift is only growing deeper. And they’ll repeat this narrative in various iterations, every single day.
But we’re not getting the whole picture because the news will only show us the negative side of the story. It’s what we want.
You see, we humans are a strange bunch. We’re drawn to the negative side of the story. We can’t look away.
The Negativity Bias as it’s know is hardwired into our brains. And because of it, we gravitate towards and hold onto negative stories and events and dismiss the positive ones.
I wasn’t familiar with negativity bias either, but let’s go back a bit. Okay, a long way to our caveman days.
Back then, life was simple. There were carrots and sticks. The carrots; Food, Sex, Shelter. The sticks, Sabertooth Tigers, injury, and death.
If you planned on reaching the legal drinking age, you had better pay close attention to the sticks.
After decades of research, psychologists discovered that the carrots and sticks weren’t just exacted on us externaly, they were processed internally as well.
They surmised that because of hundreds of millions of years of evolution and programing, negative emotions, negative feedback, and negative people (the sticks) had a bigger impact on our psyche than the carrots.
To put it in laymen’s terms, Suzy cavewoman is sexy and all, but Sabertooth Tiger bites are nasty. Basically, to the human brain, positive experiences fade like smoke rings while negative experiences stick like velcro.
Even when the negative experience is insignificant.
Think about all of the compliments you’ve received throughout your life. How many do you remember?
Now think of the one hurtful, snide comment someone made about you. It might have been 20 years ago. It might have been in grade school but I bet you remember the comment and who said it.
Media outlets know that we’re attracted to negativity like magnets to cold steel.
And that’s the reason every story you see these days seems to be full of doom and gloom. It keeps us watching. It stops the scroll.
Intense content designed to illicit strong emotions or rage is really good for business.
You know the old saying, If it bleeds it leads.
The sentiment has been around for over a century but the actual phrase didn’t come into use until the late 1890s when two newspaper moguls, William Randolf Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer went head to head in an all-out media war to grow readership and advertising revenues.
Pulitzer and Hearst goaded and manipulated the American public with endless fabricated and overly-embellished stories about Cuba’s battle for independence from Spain. The final straw being Hearst, unsubstantiated claim that Spain was responsible for the sinking of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor.
After that, President McKinley had no option but to go to war with Spain in what is widely viewed as America’s first press-driven war.
Do you find it as ironic as I do that the Pulitzer Prize is awarded for achievements in journalism? I guess achievement doesn’t necessarily mean ethical or truthful. But I digress.
You might have heard the term Yellow-Journalism as it was known at the time. Today we’re not so creative, we simply call it Fake News.
And just like back then, we still have media moguls pushing personal agendas. The difference is, our delivery system is way more efficient.
It’s far more graphic, it comes to us in high-def, and it’s fed to us on a 24-hour loop.
Recent studies have shown that consuming so much negativity on a daily basis has a negative effect on the entire community’s perception of the world over all.
It gives us the false impression that things are far worse than they really are.
People who watch the news during and after a tragic event are far more likely to experience symptoms of PTSD than someone who doesn’t pay such close attention.
None of this should come as a shock.
If you drink twelve cans of Coca-Cola every day, you might expect a negative effect on your health.
It’s the same when you consume negativity. Seems like common sense, doesn’t it?
So why do we keep engaging?
Maybe because it’s easy. Social media makes it so easy to post our thoughts, opinions and reactions that it’s almost become an involuntary response to give our opinions when tragic events occur.
Toss in hefty doses of modern day cynicism and the mixture becomes volatile.
Cynicism in concert with the negativity gives us all the impression that because nothing has changed in the past, nothing will change in the future.
You see, back in the 50s and 60s, cynicism was a useful tool that a lot artists used to dismantle some of the myths floating around– like America being the land of equal opportunity.
The idyllic life put forth by shows like Leave it to Beaver and the Brady Bunch were projected against a backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement and Vietnam War.
Comics like Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, and Richard Pryor did important things through the use of cynicism. They made a lot of people necessarily uncomfortable.
By the time the late 90s rolled around, all of our cultural and political myths had been exposed and blown to bits – countless times.
To the point it was all just being rehashed until shows like Southpark came along and just ridiculed everything. And we all laughed because we didn’t want to feel like we weren’t in on the joke.
Before his untimely death in 2008, author and English professor, David Foster Wallace wrote at length about the effects of negativity and cynicism on our culture.
His main assertion, once your social foundations have been blasted apart with no offerings of solutions or redemption, everyone is left standing around saying, now what?
Few artists have the balls to talk about what comes after the tear down, possibly because they’re afraid of a possible backlash from all of those staunch cynics out there.
It’s easy to blast everything apart from a position of pseudo enlightenment. It’s much harder to critique constructively and then offer solutions, offer hope?
Solutions and hope aren’t being offered because solutions and hope aren’t sexy. They don’t sell. If you ain’t selling, you ain’t gonna be around for long.
There’s a small part of me that relates to and identifies with the cynic and I don’t like it. Mostly from my younger days when I thought I was smarter and more enlightened because I could poke fun at everything.
And I did. But looking back at it from here, the 30,000 foot view–it was just because I was terribly insecure and afraid to be seen as soft or – even though I probably didn’t know what it meant at the time – overly-sentimental.
Things changed when I began to write music. It’s amazing what happens when you listen back to your own voice. A voice infused with your fears and insecurities no matter how hard you tried to disguise them.
Lately, I’ve been paying close attention to what I truly think and feel. I hold onto thoughts longer. Is it truthful? Is it helpful? Does it need to be said at all?
Which is ironic because my younger, cynical self or any of today’s professional cynics in observance would absolutely castrate me for being overly sentimental, unsophisticated, and disingenuous.
I’ll take the judgement.
Because I’m tired of the weary, life-torn sarcastic clicks, posting their ironic trendy-rebellion on Instagram for all the world to follow along.
The endless, witless, political punch and counter punch, non-denial denial, just say it so many times that the untruth becomes truth.
And I’m disappointed that our media conglomerates refuse to change the narrative or elevate what’s been the steady descent of journalism. [Air Quotes]
Before he died, David Foster-Wallace stated that the antidote to cynicism might very well be sincerity; the quality of being free from pretense, deceit, or hypocrisy. What a concept.
I think he was onto something. Maybe the way we combat (and I use that word hesitantly because the last thing we need in this world is more combativeness)… so instead, I’ll stick with antidote.
What if the antidote to the negativity and cynicism were as simple as sincerity and optimism.
Add sincerity and optimism, a bit of curiosity, compassion, and a healthy dose of respect and we might just have something.
Knowing the science behind Negativity Bias and a little about the power it wields over us, complex beasts that we are is huge when it comes to counter-acting its effects.
Once we know what’s happening, we can stop the thoughts and process our emotions objectively.
But, what if we simply reduced our negativity consumption and…reset; actively contradicting the exaggerated narrative?
What if we stopped doom-scrolling and posting our opinions to platforms that have never actually solved anything?
If we ramped up the exchange of ideas rather than dial up the rhetoric even further?
Does that sound too easy?
I don’t mean to be Pollyanna or pretend that we don’t have serious problems. We do.
But what would it look like if we tried being infinitely human with all of our flaws; risked being overly sentimental and dare I say it, hopeful when we talked about the problems we face?
If instead, we stepped out into the world and took it at face value.
There’s a famous story that I read years ago and continue to revisit.
I’ve clung to it many times over the last few years–a buoy on those difficult days when I wasn’t as successful as I hoped to be at keeping the negativity at bay.
It’s a story that involves A.J. Muste, a Dutch-born clergyman and political activist, best remembered for his work within the labor and civil rights movements and a close friend to Martin Luther King Jr.
The story takes place on a night when Muste was standing in front of the White House in protest of the Vietnam War.
A reporter asked him, “Do you really think you are going to change the policies of this country by standing out here alone at night in front of the White House with a candle?” A.J. Muste replied, “Oh I don’t do this to change the country. I do this so the country won’t change me.”
While we may not have the power to change the negative narrative, we definitely have the power keep ourselves from being changed by that narrative.
How do we accomplish the task on the micro level, as individuals?
It’s so clear now. The answer was right there in front of my face.
We rise and shine.
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