What does it mean to be “Positive”?

“Turn The Radio Up,” the first single from Barry Manilow’s 2001 Here at the Mayflower, was his first top 40 hit on the Billboard A/C charts since 1989’s “Keep Each Other Warm.”
Often compared to “Daybreak,” it’s a catchy tune of the “inspirational” sort, but in the context of recent thoughts, Something occurred to me listening to it yesterday:

turn the radio up
hear the melody
turn reality down
there’s too much talk about blues
to much of the time
turn the radio up
hear the harmony
turn the negative down
turn the radio up
everything will be fine

Primarily an emotion-based message, it works like any platitude in certain contexts. If “listening to the radio” is taken as a metaphor for rather than distraction from prayer, it works.
However,

worryin’ don’t do no good
so throw your cares away
come on people life’s too
short a stay
hey hey
everybody now

Again, a worthy though on its own, but there’s a subtle problem: feeling well is what counts, not being good.

Now the one that struck me, in terms of how words are ambiguated:

don’t give in
no matter what they say
out with the negative
you find the positive way

“Positive” has come to mean, “feels good,” while “negative” is “feels bad,” versus meaning “adds something” or “does something” on the one hand or “takes away something” or “does nothing” on the other. Technically, in one sense of the “negative way,” the essence of Carmelite spirituality, the approach to problems Barry is suggesting–shutting out the world and praying–is the “negative way,” the way of negation.
In a different perspective, though, the sense of “positivity” here, the annoying way of the optimist, the positivity of the person who smiles with not true joy or humor, is a bad negativity: listening to other people fiddle while Rome burns, so to speak.
To be detached for God is as “positive” as it gets. To be detached and not care-whether one’s expression is a frown or a smile-is truly negative.
That is why, when one suggests, “As Catholics, we need to be more positive,” meaning, “We have to do stuff, not just complain,” some people get angrier and think you mean “Shut up and do nothing and post cute cat pictures.”
It’s also why, in “support groups,” if you talk about the actual problems you’re there to get “support” for, people say, “you’re being too negative.”

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One response to “What does it mean to be “Positive”?

  1. Cool. Wonderful read. Please feel free to share your inspiration at Godinterest. God Bless Your Ministry.

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