Stephen Colbert declared last week, “There are no negative numbers.” This got me to wondering – what would life be like without negative numbers? I’ve taken some math classes and actually think that math can be fun. So, here we go.
Firstly, if there are no negative numbers, there are no imaginary numbers, either (because if -1 does not exist, neither does its square root).
So, all numbers are positive and real – no negativity and no imagination. What does that do to math? What happens when you deduct 6 from 2? Obviously that doesn’t work. So, we can’t do that. I feel stuck already.
Okay, we didn’t get very far with this.
As lovely a thought as it may seem, we can’t deny the existence – or utility – of negative (and imaginary) numbers. Why do we think we can wave away the existence of negative thoughts, emotions, and even events by turning off the news and banishing certain words from our vocabulary?
We think we can because we’re told that ignoring bad things will get us to a happy place. I disagree.
Pain is Good, and No, I’m Not a Masochist…
I think it’s a lie to say that banishing negativity from your conscious mind – in and of itself – improves your life. Denying the existence of negativity is not a positive thing. It’s problematic for two reasons:
- Pretending negative things happen doesn’t make them go away – it drives them further underground, into your very powerful subconscious.
- Negativity is very informative – and useful.
Obviously, negativity doesn’t feel good. I know I don’t like to see poverty, famine, or war in my life or in the lives of others. I don’t like feeling sad or unhappy. But, I know this: Ignoring these does not make them go away.
If I feel pain, it’s a signal to me that something needs to be changed. Maybe I need to process something or maybe I need to change a habit. Ignoring is a form of resistance, and, as we learned from one of the Star Trek incarnations, “Resistance is futile.” Worse than that, resistance drives the thorn deeper into our psyche where it festers, maybe becomes infected, and eventually oozes out.
Pain Offers an Opportunity for Growth and/or Healing
Consider this. Pain is a signal to pay attention. It tells us that some part of ourselves needs attention. Just as the pain of a burn informs us that we need to administer ice and salve – or the pain of a pulled muscle tells us we need to rest – or that pain in our eye tells us to pull the stick out of it.
Is Being Positive A Bad Thing?
I’m not even remotely suggesting that it’s good to dwell on things that are uncomfortable or painful. I’m just saying it’s bad to completely ignore things things that need to be addressed. Being positive doesn’t mean ignoring the reality of negativity. It means seeing the positive in everything.
Some would say that there are no negative things or positive things. I’m not there, yet, but I’m starting to get it. I’ve actually started to embrace so-called negative things as opportunities for my healing and growth and it has been – you know what, I can’t even describe it. It’s as if I have a glimpse into a peaceful bliss. I know that sounds crazy, but there you have it. I said it and I stand by it.
I’m going to go watch some news now. I can’t contribute to the world in positive ways if I don’t understand what’s going on – and I do want to contribute. That’s being positive.