Always Look On the Bright Side of Life
by Not Sure
9 Jan 2022
Monty Python’s The Life of Brian was released in 1979 and it was so controversial that it was banned in several countries and given an X rating in others. The producers used this controversy in their marketing campaign, e.g., “So funny it was banned in Norway.” Even today, if you mention the movie to some people, they call it profane or blasphemous. I’ve seen the movie a couple of times over the years, and I find it an entertaining commentary on the individual versus the mob, and the way in which simple and profound truths are quickly codified into rigid rules and regulations. Here’s a funny bit of dialogue:
Brian: Please, please, please listen! I’ve got one or two things to say.
The Crowd: Tell us! Tell us both of them!
Brian: Look, you’ve got it all wrong! You don’t NEED to follow ME, You don’t NEED to follow ANYBODY! You’ve got to think for yourselves! You’re ALL individuals!
The Crowd: Yes! We’re all individuals!
Brian: You’re all different!
The Crowd: Yes, we ARE all different!
Man in crowd: I’m not…
It would be an interesting exercise for someone with stacks of free time, to go through Alan Watt’s talks and count all the times he exhorts us to be individuals; to think for ourselves. This week’s Redux is a blurb from October 11, 2006 entitled “Truth vs. Ego”. Alan talks about how the New Age has crept into everything with mystical “experiences” for sale and positive thinking promoted heavily. Don’t look at the negative or think about anything that would make you sad or bring you down. People say they’re looking for truth or meaning, but more often than not, they only want confirmation of what they’ve already chosen to believe.
Alan begins this talk by letting his listeners know that he’ll be doing more blurbs because the Christian radio stations aren’t inviting him back now that they know where he stands, but that’s okay, he says, because you have to be true to yourself and you can’t allow yourself to be used by other people.
In this series of talks we’re putting up at the start of a new year, the focus is on self-reflection, individuality and the paramount position of personal experience on one’s journey through life.
Alan gives a rough paraphrase of the following quote attributed to Karl Rove for a 2004 article by Ron Suskind for The New York Times entitled “Faith, Certainty and the Presidency of George W. Bush”:
“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players”
– William Shakespeare, As You Like It
Karl Rove’s quote is truer than William Shakespeare’s because only a tiny minority plan our “reality.” The rest of us are merely groundlings, too poor to sit in the theatre, paying our penny to stand in “the pit” and watch the play.
The only material that we can work with is our own minds. The only experiences that we can go by are our own. But our egos make us return again and again to the play that is put on for us, whether it’s politics, religion or some other show. We get caught up in the drama and in the rules put out for us to argue about. Is it Yahweh, Yeshua, Jesus or Jehovah? Is it Biden or Trump? Either way, sit back and trust the plan.
The New Age hasn’t really crept into everything. It has been carefully designed to appeal to those fatigued by the rules of organized religion, those of us whose hedonistic, ego-syntonic lives leave us yearning for meaning that used to be supplied by an unshaken belief in God, country and family. New Age dogma admonishes us to always think positively, to never look at the negative or the ugly. “You’re bringing me down, man.”
Erik the Viking was a 1989 movie written and directed by Terry Jones (Monty Python). Erik is a young Viking who discovers that he has no taste for rape and pillage. When he learns that Fenrir the Wolf has swallowed the sun and plunged the world into Ragnarök (a great battle, many deaths, the submersion of the world in water), Erik sets off for Asgard to petition the gods to end Ragnarök. Along the way, he and his crew stop at the island of Hy-Brasil, a sunny place where everyone is cheerful, hospitable and always positive. The legend has it that if blood is ever spilled on Hy-Brasil, the entire island will sink beneath the water. This is a band of Vikings, so naturally blood is spilled. As the little island quickly begins to submerge, King Arnulf admonishes his subjects to continue singing and to remain optimistic. “This isn’t happening,” he says and he is cheerfully positive as the water covers him and the people of Hy-Brasil, drowning them.
Bright-sided: How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America, a book by Barbara Ehrenreich, published in 2010, takes aim with a wide scope at the insidious effects of positive thinking on cultural institutions. Here is a quote from a review of the book in the October 2015 issue of The Journal of Public and Professional Sociology, by Orsolya Kolozsvari:
“Ehrenreich highlights that positive thinking gurus tend to advise avoiding negative people, and the implication is that if you are one of them, you might have to brace yourself for dead-ends in your career and/or social isolation. Another option is compliance with the social, cultural, corporate, and religious norm (at least in some congregations) of positive thinking, which, if not done fully willingly, can require strenuous emotional labor. Ehrenreich mentions that cheer and optimism have been used as tools for political repression worldwide, in Iran or the Soviet Union, for instance, and positive thinking can become an insidious means of social control, especially if people are ready to impose it on themselves.”
Think back upon all the slogans of Covid-19 and how cheer and optimism are used to encourage our compliance. “We’re all in this together.” “We’re all in this together even if we can’t hold hands right now.” “All of us are social distancing and quarantining together so that things can get better faster.” “Home is the safest place to be right now.” “Do the right thing and make a real difference in the world around you, just by staying home.” “Keep calm and wash hands.” There have been stacks of articles written encouraging us to be positive during this “crisis.”
“40 Positive Quotes To Live By During Coronavirus.” “The power of positive thinking during COVID-19.” “Finding Meaning Amidst COVID-19: An Existential Positive Psychology Model of Suffering.”
“I got my Covid-19 vaccination. We can do this!”
“Educated. Motivated. Vaccinated.”
"I'm still wearing the smile my vaccine gave me."
“All vaxxed up and ready to go.”
In the Waking Up excerpts we put up last Wednesday, 5 January, “A Lot of People Prefer to Stay in Moronland,” Alan talks about that feeling of righteous indignation one experiences when they learn of evil going in the world now and in the past. We wonder why others don’t share our indignation, but he said they don’t. Most people don’t care who their government is slaughtering. They are cozy in their bubbles and in what they’ve chosen to believe. Now, it is clear for those with eyes to see, that our governments are slaughtering us.
You can’t wake someone up who has chosen to live in fantasy-land. You cannot give another your righteous indignation but you can continue to go deep into your own life experiences and learn from them. You can work on your mind. You can look at the horror full-on; the chaos and destruction that you’ve caused yourself and others. You can change – yourself. You don’t always need to look on the bright side of life. Remain positive at your own peril.
© Not Sure