Ashes of Destruction
Bountiful Blessings from Painful Losses
BY: T. Franklin Murphy | June 2015 (edited March 1, 2022)
When the bountiful universe seemingly fails, we suffer. But even in devastating surprises, we grow, finding nutrients in the ashes.
I want peace. I want happiness. Please, please tell me how. The happy life movement tears through the philosophies of the world. Survival has become a given; now we want to survive with a smile. No fears, we live in the age of capitalism; you want happiness, someone will gladly sell it to you. The billion-dollar-happiness industry has medicine men standing in line to sell you the magic potion that will cure your souls. Wellness programs flood Amazon, Barnes and Noble and the internet to save us from monotony, promising to catapult experience to new heights. Are we being played? Does this push of positivity exceed what human experience can provide? Perhaps, life does offer more. Something simple but beautiful.
The positive-thinking movement, borrowing pieces from across the wide swath of history, emerged from the rubble and has taken hold. Modern contributors to positive thinking include Mary Baker Eddie teaching the healing power of the mind, authors such as Norman Vincent Peele (The Power of Positive Thinking), and Napoleon Hill (Think and Grow Rich) followed with their best-selling books. The movement achieved prominence with scientific support from experimental psychologist Martin Seligman.
"Because trauma can be so hard to process, it’s often difficult to understand the full impact it has on our lives."
The benefits of a glowing attitude can’t be simply dismissed. But not everything under the positive-thinking umbrella is proven fact. Many motivational thoughts, books, and programs lack substance. They give people what they want to hear (willing to pay for) but fail to acknowledge reality, ignoring facts and alienating followers of scientifically supported theories. These false prophets of positivity reject the bitter experiences of existence as the mere choices of weak minds.
Positive-thinking consists of more than dream boards and motivational speakers—off-shoots of positive thinking. Positive-thinking feels good. We rather think of the pot of gold than the difficult journey. From an internal perspective, thinking wonderful thoughts and believing everything is wonderful is aesthetic, numbing the mind to some harsh realities.
Everything doesn’t work-out for our benefit. Sometimes we need to slow down for unplanned curves. With preparation, we mediate the future, avoid some nasties, and survive with more gusto than those tip-toeing through life in a blind bliss.
Not everything that happens has a blessed reason; the orphan girl would have fared better if the drunk-driver never prematurely took her mother, robbing the child of the loving tenderness that contributes to secure attachment throughout life. The limited income senior would enjoy more comfort with affordable health care. Life sometimes benefits one group while looting from another. Nevertheless, it feels good believing the universe magically fulfills our deepest desires.
With preparation, we mediate the future, avoid some nasties, and survive with more gusto than those tip-toeing through life in a blind bliss.
False Promises of a Life of Ease
Many enterprising authors, motivational speakers and mega church preachers use positive-thinking to attract followers. The masses love deception. Fanciful thinking fills arenas, sells books (t-shirts, coffee mugs, etc..), motivates employees, and creates hope. But positive-thinking, the fanatical kind, ignores reality, by providing an escape from the fret of working through the snags and hitches of existence. In healthy doses (moderated by reality), positive-thinking motivates; but with too much, we chase unrealistic, unachievable dreams.
A fundamental requirement for dream fulfillment is that the desire is achievable. To achieve, we must know the effective steps to take on the path to fulfillment. When positive-thinking interrupts the natural path to success, it’s off course.
"The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall."
Ralph Waldo Emerson
When we believe success is guaranteed, we often take our foot off the accelerator; the unplanned obstacles, we conveniently ignored, surprise us, overwhelm and then discourage. Notable changes to our lives require work, patience and skillful efforts—a positive attitude may help. The process of change stimulates discomforts—fears, vulnerabilities, shame.
Change frightens us when we move from the well-worn paths, and act in new and difficult ways. The belief we must bask in positive feelings, at all costs, prompts rejection of opportunities to change that require significant work and pain.
Bad Things Happen to Everybody
Bad things happen—not just to those with negative thoughts. We suffer losses, failures, and eventually death no matter what our attitude is. We can be comforted by modern philosophy but while embracing acceptance, awareness, and the ‘power of now,’ we mustn’t ignore the tragedies of human existence; tragedy is integral to existence. Denial of reality doesn’t banish bad things—they still exist.
We will experience despair; we occur losses in an impermanent, unpredictable world—the world we live in. But the strength of the human spirit expresses resiliency. Somehow, we face demanding and dire circumstances —not always gracefully—and emerge victorious. Through struggles, we discover remarkable recuperative powers. We don’t need to happily welcome unplanned disease, loss or failure but when challenged, we emerge victorious.
When we struggle, the demands distract our resolve, diverting our focus from intended purposes, but we strengthen character through resistance, creating a solid foundation. The occasional solemn thoughts of humanity do not need fixing. We may entertain a negative thought or experiencing discomfort during times of struggle; the discomfort reveals our humanity.
"Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor."
Difficulties Create Stress that Promotes Growth
The difficulty and the associated emotions provide nutrients for growth. Once the ashes of destruction settle, a flourishing life utilizes the ashes of sorrows for wisdom to better pursue intentions with purposeful action. Inner-struggles temporarily immobilize; that’s okay. Heal first, and then move forward. From the ashes of tragedy, the soil becomes rich. In due time, new seedlings break through the sorrow of tragedy, and grow with new purpose, hope, and wisdom.
Here in the normal, we find the great. While no amount of learning can save us from displeasure, we can work through the troubles, and arrive somewhere a little better. We can think positive thoughts, have an optimistic approach to life, but this doesn’t have to dismiss reality. Here in reality we find the real richness of living.
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