Monday, September 16, 2019

Looking on the bright side

Jilda and I wrote a song with our friend Tracy Lea Reynolds several years ago entitled Look on the Bright Side. In the past, when we performed the song at festivals and coffee house, it seemed to make people smile. But something has changed in our country and looking on the bright side is getting harder to do these days. It seems that people are angry, and all they see is the dark side of every issue.

I can remember in the not too distant past when relationships could be represented by two circles. No two circles were an exact match, but there seemed to be an area where the two circles intersected. Inside this area is where people shared ideas, beliefs, and values. It was common ground.

Coming to a complete agreement was sometimes tricky, but when there was common ground, there was a place to start. There was a path forward.

When there is common ground, there is room for negotiation…for consensus. An agreement can have components that each person values. A win-win.

When I was in graduate school, we studied a theory called the zero-sum theory. This is a mathematical representation of a situation in which each person's gain or loss of utility is exactly balanced by the losses or gains of the utility of the others. To put it simply, if I win, you lose. This theory, like so many other theories from over-paid consultants, proved to be flawed. 

I think some people today are clinging to the zero-sum theory and it explains why some people are so angry. "This is especially true when the topic is one of the hot-button issues like politics, religion, and guns. On these issues, there is no middle ground.

There was a time in my life when citizens and politicians recognized and addressed problems. While each end of the political spectrum felt they had the best solution, they were civil in their approach. They looked at where they disagreed and found areas where their views and values were similar.

Once they found common ground, they could map out a plan to solve the problem that both sides could live with. America won. I miss those days.

Perhaps it's because most people get their news instantly on their computer of phones. But I tend to believe that social media is playing a huge role.

Reading Facebook and Twitter comments these days has become disheartening. Even a simple opinion often generates a thread of snarky, rude, and sometimes threatening comments.

By reading some of these threads, it's easy to determine what cable news talking heads they follow.

It seems that reading and contemplating an issue from various points of view takes way too much time. It's much easier to just to latch on someone else's opinion that agrees with your own. Seeking common ground is out of the question.

We're headed down a rocky road, and it doesn't have to be that way. We live in a garden. If I win, you don't have to lose. If we sit down and find common ground, we can solve almost any problem.

Lyrics to Look on the Bright Side
When all you see is doom and gloom
And there's no end in sight
No matter how long and dark the tunnel
Somewhere there's always a light.


  1. Such a measured, well written post, Rick. I read it twice, it's not a piece to be skimmed through and taken lightly.
    I ask what has happened to the voices of reason and open debate?
    Not just in your country but in other so-called western democracies. I agree with your view on Facebook and Twitter, the places where views can be aired about hot button topics without any fear of repercussion.
    I'm aware that I couldn't make this comment without the wonders of technology however the bad side seems to now outweigh the good.
    I think you'll find the two intersecting circles are called a Venn diagram. I know so little, I'm compelled to show off about my meagre knowledge. :-)

  2. I suspect that some of the anger is a response to fear. Sadly social media DOES have a part to play, but so do the readers...

  3. The world has changed. It seems the old political system of elections, parties, coalition, opposition - doesn't work any more. IMHO, this is, partly because of the increasing diversity within nations which brings about a diversity of interests that makes democracy or the so-called democracy a great Burden.

    Unless a new political/social system is on its way, we might, sadly, witness divisiveness and even extinction of nations, in an accelerated mode.

  4. Facebook and Twitter are breeding grounds for drama. If I wasn’t an ambassador or influencer for different companies, I would delete both!

  5. REason, a term needed most these days. Politics is my biggest gripe. WE MUST have dialog, not mud slinging to run our country. Compromise is not a nasty word. For the differing mindsets to live together it takes compromise. You cannot have everything your way and have a smooth operationg system.
    Good read, Look on the bright side.
    Sherry & jck

  6. An excellent post... It's unbelievable the level of dysfunctional families out there, and in turn they make more dysfunctional families. Just ask Dr. Phill, lol... They can't relate to common sense.

    The virtues that was held so dear years ago, has been lost. If God was put first, then everything would be right. Most movies no longer represent the good way of life but it's mostly demonic in nature. The old people die and are replaced by a generation that is glued to their cell phone and are used to have everything instantly at their disposal. They live an unhappy life and can't relate.

    Hugs, Julia

  7. I always try to look on the bright side of things. Every day may not be a good one, but every day has some good in it when you take the time to look for it. I love your song !

  8. I don't have to agree with you to respect the fact that you have an opinion. I should be able to listen to you openly and you should be able to openly listen to me. We may never agree but we will have heard the other point of view. And we may both learn something in the process. Who knows? We might even reach an agreement satisfactory to both of us. I too am tired of all the hate and distrust.

  9. Some people have a problem finding the bright side but I think life is better when we do

  10. I suspect we are are on different sides of the fence on many issues, but I believe we could get along just fine, we do both agree on how silly comments on social media are. Also, I've been messing with my Ukulele lately and it is one fun only plays happy music.

  11. Ver well said and written. I think honesty and respect for others has almost disappeared from society and unless it comes from the leaders of our countries the next generations will have a very different and difficult life. Let's hope they will see some sense. There are a lot of good people in the world, but the leaders of our countries are not always in this group.

  12. When I was at a conference about 4 yrs ago, she claimed that 30 years ago people had the attention span of, approximately, 9 it is 9 seconds! We see this in social media but in every other aspect as well. Everything is faster, less empathy, more yelling, sniping etc...If one even sees the commercials for crap like the bachelor or an American cooking show contest, you hear nothing but double dealing, underhanded remarks etc...People watch this crap because they like the crap. I don't have the answer to stop people from watching these head on collisions but i can turn it off. I like the positive and I think people do love to hear this so sing this song with Jilda every chance you get because for every negative person(s) there are many who like the positive.


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