Lao Tzu says that we must feed the good and the bad will wither and die. This approach feels right to me, as I see so many people stuck in the “bad,” whether it is being trapped by worry or feeding negative fantasies until they come true or even talking obsessively about the “devil” and what he is trying to get them to do. If we pour our energy into the positive, we cultivate the positive, and the negative has nothing to feed on. (Why the “devil”-obsessed folks don’t just turn their attention to their faith in Jesus I cannot understand.)
So the negative withers and dies. Compost! It is still usable. The idea of turning to the positive is a helpful reminder, but to turn our backs on the negative permanently encourages a dangerous denial; we don’t have to be afraid to look the dark side in the face and use it for good.
I think I have resisted optimism for so long because it seemed pathetically passive, to be a weak pawn clinging desperately to happy thoughts against the raging storms of chaos that toss us all around. I could never understand how it could be better to be clueless about how bad things really are and to pretend that everything is okay.
But to be optimistic in the face of the suffering, the horrors, the pain of life, what courage and strength! True optimism does not deny the negative, it simply acknowledges it, refuses to feed it, and converts it to positive energy to move forward along the path.
Cynicism and pessimism, which I used to think demonstrated a brave, bold acceptance of reality, I now believe are signs of defeat, of allowing the negative to swamp you and take over your life. It is a cowardly surrender to despair.
There is suffering. The negative does exist, and you will meet it on the path with alarming regularity. But it is not the Way. If we keep to the Wise Way, we will find love even in the midst of pain and sorrow, and our hearts, minds and wills can follow that light through any darkness.