Islamists massacre dozens in Kenya, Afghan police kill finger-cutters, China executes 13 for terrorism, and Sunni insurgents in northern Iraq have carried out summary executions of captured soldiers: these are some of today’s headlines from the homepage of the BBC news site, a respectable organisation that offers news to the whole world. All of the headlines are tales of negativity, making the world that we live in look like a scary place to be. Worse still, each story is about how we humans make the world a much worse place to be. If you read these stories, you will be convinced that we should keep ourselves to ourselves because others are out to get us.
That is how I used to feel because that is how we are taught to feel, but it could not be further from the truth. It makes the world seem like a very big and scary place (partly the reason for the name of this blog). When I was sixteen, I mostly stopped watching TV and in the past few years, I have actively avoided it, particularly the news. In fact, looking up the headlines to write the above first paragraph is the first time I have looked at the news headlines since… I don’t remember when. Am I missing out? I don’t think so. Am I oblivious to the goings on of the world? Yes. Does that matter? I believe not.
I don’t need to know about the bad in the world. Or if I did, I at least need to over balance it with the good. Why aren’t there three news channels? The bad news, the good news, and the news that simply happened?
Instead of focusing on the news which promotes negativity, I focus on things that make me think, ‘WOW, the world and people are all rather wonderful.’ Since giving up everything (my job, home, stable life) to hitchhike around Europe, I have been reminded of how great people can be time and time again: nobody tried to rob, abuse, or harm me in any way, despite warnings I received from people against going on such a journey. Yes, bad things do happen, they just aren’t very likely and if we spend our whole lives preparing for them, we forget to enjoy ourselves and end up as a nervous wreck. Then when something bad does happen, we negative people say, ‘Ha, I told you something bad would happen, I was right,’ which makes all that worrying a waste anyway because we couldn’t stop what happened. I have broken my back, had stitches in my head, been arrested (twice), had a few brief mildly uncomfortable encounters, but these happenings our outweighed a hundred times over by everything good that has happened – because I let the good happen and I look for it.
If you’re going to read the news, try reading something such as The Positive News, the only news site I have ever written for. The headlines today include: World’s oldest message in a bottle found, How a little ocean optimism is helping clear up the blue planet, and A&E data shows drop in violent crime. Imagine if we all thought of the world in a positive way? Or if we thought about it in an honest way? Aside from optimists, we could all be realists and everything would seem amazing.
There are several mantras that I like to live by. One is this:
We are only human
It has two meanings. Firstly it means that we are human, meaning that we have a capacity to do great things (look through history at all the amazing people in the world). Secondly, it means that we are all the same. Take away religion and international borders and everybody is the same. We want to connect and our capacity for goodness is far greater than our capacity for evil. Let people be good to you and be the same to them.
So turn off the news, it’s all bad. Watch something good today. Like the following video of Iceland which may have affected my next big decision in life. The images send shivers down my spine – the good kind.
If you want to read the story of how I started to feel that the world is a great place, download a sample of The Boy Who Was Afraid of the World. If you like it, you can then read the whole thing.