I absolutely love when certain themes seem to start bubbling up everywhere in my life, almost like they’re begging to be seen and shared.
This topic is definitely one of those cases. The idea of perception, positivity and self-fulfilling prophecies has been showing itself again and again to me.
It came to me first a few weeks ago, as Jason and I were sitting in a theatre watching the new movie, Tomorrowland. I thought the movie as a whole was enjoyable but just okay (its too-perfect-for-my-taste Disney silver lining knocked it down a peg for me), but some of the movie’s themes served as important reminders that have stuck with me.
One of those themes came in the form of an old Native American legend that is told in the movie. The tale goes like this:
A grandfather is trying to teach his grandson about life and he tells him: ‘There’s a terrible fight within me, a fight between two wolves. One wolf is evil - he is anger, envy, arrogance, greed, resentment, and false pride. The other wolf is good - he is joy, hope, love, serenity, kindness, empathy, and compassion.’
The grandson takes a minute and then asks, ‘Well, which wolf wins?’
The grandfather simply replies, ‘The one you feed.’
The story is so simple in its truth.
All of us have this battle within us: a fight between negativity and positivity, or sometimes a fight between love and hate (or, as I have come to realize, love and FEAR, which disguises itself as hate.)
And the side that will eventually win out - positivity or negativity - is a matter of which we decide to feed.
Do we click on disastrous news stories and hateful Facebook posts? Do we gossip about other people with our friends? Do we silently judge others as we pass them on the street or scroll past their photos on Instagram? Well, that’s the kind of food that the Wolf of Darkness needs to grow bigger and get stronger. Feed it enough of that stuff and suddenly it will seem like there is no hope or good in the world.
But, on the other hand, do you practice open-mindedness in conversations? Do you encourage others you see struggling on your Facebook feed? Do you default to kindness and acceptance for those that are different from you? Do you take time to imagine the best case scenario instead of the worst? Well, that’s what makes the Wolf of Light stronger. That’s when you’ll start to see the lightness and good in the world around you.
This simple fable made me smile as I thought about the poignant truth behind it, but it wasn’t until this idea was brought up AGAIN in Fargo the following week that I started to consider the vast implications it could have on the world as a whole.
On the second day of MisfitCon, Solitaire Townsend, co-founder of Futerra in the UK, took the stage to talk about how she’s working to battle climate change.
She started by explaining that we all know the health and longevity of our planet — the place that we live and breathe and work and prosper — is an important, enormous, overwhelming topic to consider. And she went on further to explain that when dealing with circumstances so dire, so extreme, that there is only one way you can approach a topic that big and conquer it to make lasting positive change: you have to turn your back on it.
HUH? You could see the momentary confusion on the faces in the crowd.
Solitaire (SUCH a badass name, by the way) went on to explain something called the Thomas Theorem.
The Thomas Theorem is a construct in sociology which says this: our behavior does not depend on the objective reality of a situation but instead on our subjectiveinterpretation of reality. The consequences and results of that behavior then can create the reality.
WHOA - heavy stuff (and kind of complicated, I know.) Basically it's saying that what we believe about a situation (true or not) can then cause our actions to in turn make that belief actually true. Where we place our attention (and in turn, our beliefs) affects our behavior.
In the case of climate change, Solitaire knows that if we focus on the problem, the enormity of the issue, the dire circumstances -- in other words, all the negative -- that there's a risk of actually creating that dire future and making it true. (The wolf that wins is the one you feed, right?)
However, if we turn our back on it and we focus on the future world we want to create, the hopeful and beautiful one, it will affect our decisions and our behavior and that is the outcome that we'll effect.
Now, I'm not saying we pretend that there aren't bad things going on in the world. I'm not suggesting that we all walk around like naive Polyannas. All I'm saying is that we have the choice to focus more of our attention and efforts on all the good in this world. We get to choose which wolf that we feed.
This notion of our outlook and positivity continues to pop up in my daily life. I see it in the contrast between the smiling passengers and the irritated passengers on my flights out here. I see it in the gratitude of the handicapped homeless man that Jason and I bought water for outside of Target, his thankfulness and friendly disposition in stark contrast with the family of loud complainers (with a full cart of purchased items, mind you) that checked out in front of us at the register. I see it in simple acts of kindness that I'm now more primed to recognize in my daily life.
So I guess the lesson this week is this:
The energy that we put into this world matters.
Hope and love and positivity are not just nice-to-haves or trite concepts; they have areal effect on the way the future of our society unfolds.
All that said, here’s my simple directive to you this week:
Err on the side of love.
Err on the side of hope. Of acceptance and empathy and optimism.
In other words, feed the Wolf of Light.
I think you'll be surprised the real difference it creates in your actions and your outlook.