I was looking for more videos of big dogs being carried up escalators but accidentally clicked on the wrong thing and came across this curious #thursdaymotivational command:
Keep the positive principle going by visualizing energy and vitality continuously at work within you, refreshing body, mind, and spirit.
So then, of course, I looked up “positive principle” because I didn’t really know what that was about. Google delivered up this quote by Norman Vincent Peale:
The positive principle is based on the fact that there is always an answer, a right answer, and that positive thinking through a sound intellectual process can always produce that answer.
In other words, if you can concentrate on a positive feeling or thought process, you will somehow generate good things for yourself, whereas, if, as I daily suggest, you consider your mortal flesh in the direst of terms, you will end up with a life full of bad things and disappointments. And we know, I mean, of course, we know, that Mr. Peale is absolutely correct about visualizing positive and good things for yourself as a means to getting them because Mr. Trump, his best and most flamboyant disciple, has gotten to be president of the United States.
Although, one wonders. Can this so-called “positive principle” possibly work in a cosmic sense? Because half the country was using their positive force energies to hope that Mr. Trump wouldn’t ascend to that august office, and it didn’t work out for them. But maybe they weren’t positive enough. Maybe there were hints of doubt and sadness in all the thoughts and energy they were sending across the ballet box.
Anyway, this isn’t about politics. This is about how I started watching Cheers for the first time in my life, because I like to keep up a steady drip of cultural remediation in the background of my life. I’m not going to watch the whole thing, because that seems tedious, but I was mucking out the schoolroom—again—and it seemed as good as anything. So of course, then, having watched that, Netflix suggested I watch something else with the same actor, what’s his name? Now he is white-haired and isn’t so good at his craft as he used to be, I would say, after three quick of episodes of this ghastly program called The Good Place.
It’s about the afterlife, essentially. By means of some technical glitch, a beautiful blond white woman ends up in The Good Place (heaven, I guess) instead of where she deserves to go, which is The Bad Place. Only the very best get to go to the Good Place, the very very few people who utterly sacrificed themselves for the shibboleth of the day, mainly global warming, and a few other causes. A smattering of all the religions are represented in The Good Place, because what you believe isn’t very important, it’s that you were a very good person. The problem, as you can guess, is that a very bad and selfish person has gotten to be there, but she doesn’t want the mistake to be corrected, of course, and so a good person in the Good Place is trying to help her learn to be good, but while they’re doing that, she has brought badness into the Good Place, and so a lot of bad things are happening. Sort of Garden of Eden meets apocalypse meets bad acting and bad writing. In the episode I’m in right now, the heroine is trying to prove that the other people in the Good Place are actually bad, though less bad than her. I tell you, I’m on the edge of my seat. I mean, that’s because there’s a fluffy dog literally pushing me right to the edge.
So what does the positive principle have to do with a trite, cultural, vision of heaven? Well, mainly that I think most people who think the positive principle might work would imagine that generating good positive energy and thoughts will ultimately get them to the Good Place. It’s essentially a spiritual work. You yourself can “refresh” your “body, mind, and spirit” which is a cosmically spiritual endeavor. You need to work on that today, but most especially because of the eternal consequences of not being a good person, not achieving your dreams, not getting to the place you want to go.
It caught my eye, of course, because Jesus, in Matthew’s gospel, offers refreshment, rest, to the person who has failed to refresh himself. Come to me, he says, all you who are weary. You’ve worked hard. You’ve been laboring away, you’ve been lugging along a heavy burden, you are tired, you need rest.
Faced with your own fatigue, your mortality, your inevitable death, what are you going to do? Are you going to visualize a positive energy moving through the sectioned, disconnected portions of yourself—your body, mind, and spirit? Or are you going to go get some help?
But more than that, what is your ultimate inclination? Are you hoping to live on in some pseudo, positive “goodness” where the life after this one looks very much the same, only cleaner and with more McMansions? Are you hoping that positive energy will carry you over the threshold of death into something more pleasant? What if there’s a glitch? What if it doesn’t work?
I mean, it won’t, because your overall negativity—the fact that you’re not good at all no matter how hard you try—not only isn’t going to get you into heaven/the good place, it isn’t really going to get you through the day. You can’t refresh yourself. You can’t care for yourself. Not ultimately. Not forever.
You need a loving merciful person who comes along to lift your fluffy bulk up and haul you up the escalator—no wait, you’re not a big fluffy dog, and heaven isn’t up, this is all so confusing.
Doesn’t matter. You don’t need to work up any kind of energy at all. Go to Jesus who will give you what you need, which is himself, and he is Good—forever and even today.