Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Choosing Your Colour

I am of the mind that for some people, some adversity is brought about by their own personalities. Note the two "somes" and the lack of blame. I did not say that people are at fault for whatever adversity befalls them but that something about their mental makeup may have helped to cause some of their difficulties with the world. Once again, let me also hasten to add that I speak of the normal situations of life and not catastrophic illnesses and calamities although, even in dire circumstances such as these, the following observations might apply to a certain extent.

My mother and her brother, my uncle, serve as an example in my mind. Although they rather obviously shared similar upbringings, they had different attitudes towards the world. Neither was raised in opulence; in fact, it might be observed that both endured some deprivation. However, where Mom became suspicious and tended to see the world negatively, Uncle Charlie always seemed to be a happy, content soul.

Oddly enough, from my point of view, it was Charlie who had the greater cause to feel that he had been hard done by. He was a man who was not even five feet tall. He never married but lived with his father, until he [my grandfather] passed away. Then, he lived as a boarder in this place or that with just a room to call his own. But I never heard him complain. I think he accepted life as relatively good and fair.

While I'm not saying that Mom's life was easy, I do remember something she said in her later years that might illustrate this small point that I am trying to make. It went something like this: "David Copperfield is on TV tonight. I'd like to watch it. Both he and I have had difficult lives." She wasn't brought up in rough orphanages, and she was by then materially comfortable, and I'm sure that many humans might have readily changed lives with her, but such was her internal reality that she likened her lot to that of an orphan in Dickensian England.

As I implied at the beginning, I don't think people can help how they are programmed to experience the world, not initially at least, for I tend to believe that there is something within us that predisposes us to perceive the world as we do. I do think, however, that, as life unfolds and we become more mature and responsible, it is within our abilities to make choices about how we see the world and our lot within it. I don't suppose that it is easy for many, but I do believe that it is possible because in the end we must surely have some responsibility for the colour of the lenses that we put on to view our lives.


Blue Rodeo Rose Colored Glasses lyrics

She sees the world through rose-coloured glasses
Painted skies and graceful romances
I see a world that's tired and scared
Of living on the edge too long


Cathy said...

Anvilcloud - My experience of people and their listing toward or away from happiness has led me to the same conclusion. There may be far less free will than we suppose (or hoped).
As one of seven children I've had many years of observing what can only be (in my opinion) strong genetic influences that spun lives onto paths unexplainable by environment. Can't prove it, but sure suspect it's so. But, there are those twin studies that tend to bear this out.

Anonymous said...

Overall, I think you're correct. My particular belief is that life is what it is. Attitude matters but the false optimism and forced cheeriness promoted in this culture drives me nuts. :) Suffering is part of life. It is dukkha.. Samsara. Living in the material plane ain't easy ~ but we do all have each other. As long as we keep that in mind, the rest of it pales in comparison. Maybe it is "perspective" rather than "attitude". Hm. Leh? :)



PBS said...

I think we're rather programmed to run the course of our lives. A person's position in the family matters a lot too. My older brother is bitter, his childhood was much rougher than mine. My younger brother was spoiled, yet we all grew up fairly poor, in the same family. A positive attitude is important, but also as TG commented, looking at life realistically.

People whose life philosophy is "Smile, God loves you" are (in my opinion) really pretty shallow people.

Anonymous said...

Well said, AC. Both of my parents immigrated to Canada several years after the second world war. The rest of their siblings stayed in the Netherlands. I have noticed huge differences between my mother and her siblings and the way they look at life. Sadly, it seems to me that mom never quite got over some of the hard times of her earlier years while her siblings seemed to have moved on.

Anonymous said...

Great post. I agree with you that personality is involved. When you look at personality profiles, there are some folk who see things in positive, idealistic ways as a function of their personalities. Despite the downsides of being idealistic, I'm rather grateful that's the personality I was born with.

I rather suspect that your personality is the sort that is also generally looking for the good and the interesting in life.

methatiam said...

Optimists say the glass is half full.

Pessimists say the glass if half empty.

Type A personalities say there’s twice as much glass as needed.

Cynics say that someone else drank half their liquid.

Realists drink all the liquid, wash the glass and put it away. There’s too much to do to waste time obsessing about drinks and glasses.

Coll said...

It amazes me how my sisters and I, growing up and sharing similar life experiences, remember and perceive many of them so differently.

I do feel much of how we react is how we were born to react. But I also believe in attempting to find the positive. But then.. that is just me. :-)

Gina said...

I think personality plays a huge role in how we deal with our lives.

Look at my husband. Of all the sons in his family, why was he the ONLY one to resist drinking and drugs? I can't believe that it is all genetic, I just can't.

Bonita said...

Yes, I agree with you on this - temperment and disposition are significant shapers of one's destiny, as is one's personal choice to rise above circumstances and count one's blessings.

Ginnie said...

I believe that we basically keep the personality that we have as a small child...but life intercedes and we do what we think we have to in order to make it through. But I also believe that we can change. I live a day at a time now and don't worry about the future since most of what I forsee never happens anyway. It's a waste of time to get all in a tizzy about something that may never happen.

Heather said...

I think you're right. I have a hard time putting up with pessimists because I just keep thinking "look on the BRIGHT side for a change." Not that I'm always sunny, but life is what you make it.

mreddie said...

There comes a time in our life to realize that "it is within our abilities to make choices about how we see the world and our lot within it." So very true! ec

Kila said...

Very true. Some people are perpetually cheerful no matter what. Others just can't find any reason to smile, and every minute is an uphill battle.

And yes, the situations we find ourselves in are partly our own fault.

Turtle Guy said...

What a refreshing post! How you see the world is EVERYTHING. If you don't mind, I may reference your writing here in an upcoming post. You've awakened some thoughtfulness in me.