LIFE IS ESSENTIALLY NEUTRAL
Most occurrences in life are open to an extraordinary amount of personal interpretation, because they are actually neutral to begin with. Without a human being around to place a value on events, events themselves are essentially valueless.
Lightning starts a fire and decimates a beautiful forest which no person has ever seen. A volcano erupts, flowing lava over the site of a village — a village which has been uninhabited for over a thousand years. An earthquake exposes a vein of pure gold a mile long. A distant star is born, creating the spark for simple life-forms. The Earth, itself, is obliterated by a giant asteroid.
Are such events good or bad? Without a man or woman there to evaluate them, the question is moot. These events, and indeed all events, are neutral and valueless without our human ability to judge them. They have no meaning at all. They are not good. They are not bad. They just are…
Does the rock on a the face of a cliff care if it has been moved by an landslide? Does the moon care that one of it’s sides never sees the Sun? Does a rain drop care whether it falls on land or out at sea?
Actually, the universe is a pretty neutral place. Worlds come and go, species exist and cease to exist, things change rapidly or remain constant for eons. Who is say what is good or bad? For we humans, the answer is clear: it is us!
We are the ones who decide — both on a cultural level and on an individual level — what is good and what is bad. We impose our value judgements on an essentially neutral world. We have decided that death is bad, that murder is evil, that gold is desirable, and that birth is good. As Shakespeare put it long ago, ” ’tis nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
We humans decide what has meaning in this world. We impose our views of “goodness” and “badness” upon what is, in actuality, a neutral situation. We are the ones who pronounce that things are “significant” or “insignificant.” We are are the ones who determine what is “important” or “irrelevant.” We decide what is “virtuous” and what is “base.” We select the things which hold value and separate them from those things which have no value. We dictate what is “right” from “wrong.”
The world doesn’t care how we interpret it. It only matters to us…
Assuming a completely neutral world (one in which nothing is really good or bad); and further, assuming that each of us impose our own interpretation of the events which occur in this world; then how happy or unhappy we will feel depends on how we interpret the events which occur. Furthermore, assuming most events are actually neutral, there’s no reason why all of them might not be seen in a positive, happy light. Given the essential neutrality of the world, a positive interpretation of events could keep us happy all the time!
Can any event be interpreted positively? Assuming a world in which all events are neutral, the answer would be, “yes!” Yet as biological creatures, encumbered with pain and pleasure receptors, there is much about our physical existence that are absolute. Certain physical agonies and pleasures may defy every attempt at psychological interpretation. Based on our biological undercarriage, an aching wound may always be interpreted as “bad” and a full stomach as “good.” But such biological examples are the exception to “neutrality,” not the rule. And even these extreme examples appear open to differing interpretations: the man with the aching wound might, optimistically, envision himself as a possible hero; the woman with the full stomach might complain as to how lacking the meal she had was.
In everyday terms, neutrality is all around us. The day is full of insignificant events which are open to our own interpretation. We hear the company executives laughing in the hallway. Are they laughing at a joke, or derogating us? We hear a colleague muttering something as she passes by. Is she mad at us, or are they angry about something else? Someone is staring at us in a crowd. Do they find us flawed; do they think we’re attractive; or are they from the F.B.I.? We’ll never know for sure. So why not interpret that the executives are laughing at a joke, the colleague is angry about something else, and that the person in the crowd found us especially attractive?
Most everyday situations are so value-neutral we’ll never figure them out — nor, will we ever find out, for sure, what is actually going on. So why make yourself miserable about them, when you can think the best about them?