Positive Thinking !!!!!

Anyone suffering from bouts of insomnia knows the trick: when you lay there wide awake, it is of the utmost importance to control your thoughts. No way you can have them straying leisurely into the vast plains of past failures and present fears. Neither is 2AM the time to ponder the state of the world or the sufferings of humanity.

No, with all your might you have to concentrate on the recollection of images of Bliss & Peace (listening to a Bach cantata in a church, sitting by the river in a late September sun, wandering through the sheltering spaces of a museum). Yes, escapism is the only way to make it safely into the morning, to be able to rise with a modicum of lust for life.

And surely this disciplining of one’s thoughts also helps in everyday life. Don’t all sensitive people know those days of downward spiraling, over-critical thoughts: analyzing in great detail past slights, one’s own and others’ shortcomings and imagining all possible worst cases for the future. Thus all mental energies are engaged in a near masochistic exercise that leaves one vulnerable and exhausted.

Oh, I’m the first to smirk about naive positive thinking – but there’s no denying that one’s own attitude has self-fulfilling properties: indulge in self-pity and self-hate and thou will have plenty of reason to pity and hate yourself in future too. Skate blithely over past failures , and thou will have plenty of energies to prepare future successes. Yes, I think that even consciously faking some positive thinking can have beneficial effects. (1) But, fear not, to back up these bold words, I will not go as far as to quote some American positive thinking guru, no, I rather stick to Milton’s somber and enchanting verse:

“The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven”

Or, to placate those who might think I have sold out to mindless optimists, here’s Pascal’s precept to allay fears of death and misery: ne point y penser …. (2)

“Since man has not managed to abolish death, misery, ignorance – he has, in order to be happy, resolved himself simply not to think about it”

(1) Gosh, do I really believe this myself?
(2) « Les hommes n'ayant pu guérir la mort, la misère, l'ignorance, ils se sont avisés pour se rendre heureux, de ne point y penser »


Phoenix said...

as an almost seasoned insomniac, I so get you. but no matter how many silly uncooperative sheep I count, how many silly potential novellas I script, or however much i try and focus on lurching into that black-ness behind the lids, nothing works...its like the light's programmed to stay on, some days. and the interesting bit is, I'm not the worse for it when the sun's out and having a ball!
oh well...

ffflaneur said...

hey, and an eloquent insomniac you are! but you mean you manage to get up all perky & bouncy after a sleepless night????

as to 'silly uncooperative sheep' - how about a vision of 'smart rolling sheep'? A while back the papers ran a story about scottish sheep who had cunningly circumvented a road grid (meant to keep them out of lush gardens) by... rolling over the grid, commando-style, one after the other.

An image to get one laughing through many a sleepless night.

Phoenix said...

haha, those are some smart sheep...will incorporate them in my next sleepless session :-D

yes, funnily enough, I do seem ready for the next day despite the deprivation...weird, hunh?!

antonia said...

i just love this post i love it and agree with it so much. wonderful milton quote.

ffflaneur said...

hey a, i'd forgotten about this post - so glad a seasoned insomniac like you agrees with it :-)