As Empty As A Monday Morning Church

Taking a Break

This was originally posted on an Asperger’s advocacy page on Facebook, but it’s relevant here, because so many people maintain that “not doing anything” is “negative behaviour” – and yet it can sometimes be the most positive thing you can do, in the long term.

Think of a church on Monday morning, when all the worshippers have gone, when there’s just the silence of old stones – which has a soft and subtle noise all of its own, if you listen hard enough – and the scent of flowers and furniture polish, the tracks in the carpet where the battalion of elderly ladies have hoovered and gleamed. Old wood, old stone, and memories.

You sit there, in silence, and absorb so much more of whatever your concept of “god” is than you would in the raucous din of worship, the embarrassing, cloying closeness of other people and their expectations that you won’t do anything “inappropriate” – like cry because it’s so beautiful, or rage at the invisible, improbable Being who, apparently, is responsible for the hell that is your life. Or laugh, at how ridiculous everyone seems, with their childish Daddy fixations.

We need to stop. We are not machines, meant to run forever with just a bit of oiling now and again.

Academics regularly take sabbaticals – whole years out to do something completely different, something that’s theirs

We all need that. Six months, say, of doing nothing – literally “whatever we want”, and six months of doing something “productive” (ie, that we acquire either knowledge or money from) but that we haven’t done before, don’t necessarily want to do forever, but that interests us.

It’s not “negative” to “do nothing” – you’re not “doing nothing” – you’re resting.

And, sometimes, that’s the most positive thing you can do.

That, and visiting Monday-morning churches.

Sunday Supplement

The next time someone tells you “don’t be negative”, ask them if they put on a jumper, or turn up the heating, when they feel cold.

If they answer “yes”, or variants thereof – congratulations! They’ve “been negative”!

Feeling “cold” is  a negation – it is an absence of warmth. Addressing feeling cold by taking steps to counter it is admitting you don’t like the sensation of being cold – hence, you are “being negative”. (You are “not warm”, and you are voicing that.)

Taoism holds that it is negative emotions that lead to positive ones – it is only through feeling pain that you can work to relieve it.

Imagine all the things that would never have been invented if no one had ever acknowledged being dissatisfied? Aeroplane travel, central heating, electricity, smartphones, computers, cars – the list is endless. The best things come from looking the worst feelings squarely in the face, admitting to them, talking about them, and doing something in response to them.

Purple Success

…”in previous times, to call someone “successful” was as nonsensical as calling them purple.” (Jacques Ellul, quoting Eric Fromm in “New Philosopher, Feb-Apr 2016)

Success. Everyone wants it, we’ll pay to learn how to (potentially) get it, we’re mocked if we don’t have it – but it’s an illusion, an invention. It’s not a part of some undeniable “natural order”, it’s not “inherent to the human condition.” It doesn’t really exist at all – but we allow the pretence of it to make us feel bad, to make us feel less than human, to tell us that we’re not good enough. To tell us we “can’t be negative.”

The thing is, success is a sociologically-constructed state. Negativity is feelings. And, although they can’t be analysed, put under a microscope, cut up, poked and prodded, feelings are real. Sociologically-constructed states are not.

Stop worrying that you’re not some artificial state. Start enjoying the fact that you’re feelings, that you’re real.

The Days You Wake Up

Today, a friend of mine marks having been alive for a quarter of a century.

Last night, she went to sleep hoping she didn’t wake up, as she has every night for the past two years.

She knows she has a mental illness, she’s engaging with conventional treatment – but perhaps the healthiest thing she’s doing is calling a community around her by being open and honest about the fact that it’s hard, that she doesn’t want to be here, that she hurts.

Think of it like this; if you’re caught up in some kind of disaster – a bomb blast, for example – and you’re wandering around looking a bit dazed, maybe cut and bleeding, and a medic asks if you’re okay, and you say “yes, I’m fine, really, there are people hurt far worse”, the medic will move on. You won’t get treated.  And maybe you’ll end up dying from the internal bleeding you didn’t know about, because you were so positive and focused on the poor people who were visibly and badly hurt.

You don’t need to have a mental illness to ask for help, to ask for things to be changed, to express frustration – in fact, research has started to show that, if you express “negative” emotions, you’re likely to be mentally more resilient, if not mentally healthier. (Check out The Article That Started It All, over on our Links page).  If you’re always positive, and nothing ever needs to be changed, then guess what? You’ll spend your life seething with frustration about all the things that are wrong, while plastering a bright, fake smile over everything.

Negativity is not wrong. Negativity is a pain signal – it’s a call to action.

Negative Is Also A Charge

Ever wondered why batteries have both positive and negative (+/-) polarity? It’s because negative is also a charge – it has a purpose, a use, and a function, even if we don’t fully understand why.

Negative emotions have, for a long time, been the victim of an intensive, and, to date, very successful, smear campaign – positive thinking has been the darling of just about every camp; if you’re a positive person, you’ll have success, wealth, friendship, happiness, health – positivity cures cancer, brings dream jobs, draws lovers and friends – any minute now, I’m sure, we’ll hear that utilities providers and retailers are accepting positivity as a valid form of payment.

Positive emotions don’t have miraculous powers.  Negative ones just might.

We don’t get better because we “believe” we will – we get better because we pay attention to the things that are wrong, to the behaviours we indulge in that harm us. Negativity can, quite literally, be a lifesaver.

When we notice physical pain, we don’t gloss over it, we don’t deny it, we don’t say that “it’s here for a lesson, something good will come from it” – we stop whatever we were doing when the pain hit, if we were not engaged in any unusual activity, we review our diet, our resting patterns, our exercise regime – we look for things that could be dis-easing us. And, usually, we find them, or, if we do not, we go to a medical professional whom, we hope, can tell us what is wrong.

They can tell us what is wrong. They are negative – “wrong” is a negation. It speaks of absence. And, once we know what is absent, we know what ails us – and how to become well.

But we need to know of the absence – the negation – first.