One of my favorite aspects of watching a movie at home is the pause button — well, that and the fact that my popcorn costs less than an ounce of gold. The reason I like the pause button is that it allows me to stop the movie to get a drink, to go to the bathroom, or to rewind the movie if I want to watch something again. I remember watching the dinner scene in The Nutty Professor at least seven times.
But what if there were a pause button for life? A device like this would allow us to pause when we see an amazing sunset, or when we need just a few more minutes with our kids before they go off to college, or when we see Heather Locklear in an airport. OK, maybe that pause button is just for me.
Beyond that, though, the pause button would help us take a break from perpetuating the onslaught of negativity that seems to be consuming us.
As I go into the new year, I’m committed to hitting the pause button on negativity with a bit more regularity. I’m not suggesting that I use the pause to ignore injustice, to escape responsibility or to squelch the freedom we enjoy to express ourselves. Instead, I simply want to pause before responding to others, so that I do so with more understanding, more compassion and more respect.
In the recent months, we’ve seen reports of terrorism, abuses of political power, doubts in our criminal justice system, and acts of cyber warfare. But what concerns me beyond the toxicity of these problems is the poisonous language found throughout our media channels. It’s not enough that we must watch, in horror, as humans treat other humans so inhumanely, it seems we must also watch as anonymous bystanders criticize or malign others just because they can. It’s as if words of encouragement are no longer in vogue but have simply become vanilla ice cream in a jalepeno-basil-sherbet world. The media seems to suggest that positivity is “not what the people want.”
I recently read that a Russian newspaper decided to print only positive stories. Subsequently, they lost over 60% of their readers. I realize that printing only positive news meant that this particular news service wasn’t printing all of the news and perhaps that’s what led to the drop in readership. But I also think the drop is indicative of our collective desire for controversy.
So, during the next twelve months, I want to hit the pause button by taking a break from the harshness of our world and spending more time appreciating the many positive events, people, and experiences I encounter. And perhaps by my writing about this, I’m suggesting that you consider this approach as well.
Here’s how I think this would work.
Instead of posting a note on Facebook about how I missed my flight and was burdened by three more hours in the United Club Lounge waiting for the next flight, perhaps I should hit the pause button on my rant and consider that there are people waiting for flights to attend the funeral of a loved one and their burden is probably a bit heavier than mine.
Instead of publicly complaining about the President, the Congress, or other elected officials, perhaps I should hit the pause button on my criticism and consider how I am contributing to improving the state of my community through my own political work or volunteer activities.
Instead of being upset that Kim Kardashian is famous for no apparent reason, perhaps I should hit the pause button and consider how I might use my words to encourage someone else who is not so visible and may not feel he/she has a valued place in this world.
Instead of being irate about the current healthcare situation, perhaps I should hit the pause button and consider how I might support a nearby free clinic or the local health department to help them provide care for those who are less fortunate than I am.
Instead of griping about how the rich just keep getting richer, perhaps I should hit the pause button and make sure that I am using my privilege and wealth to do good. Rich is not always defined by money.
A home movie can be paused. Real life is harder. It takes discipline to hit the pause button when we’re caught up in the fast-forward speed of life. But, when we do take a break and look around, we will see more beauty than ugliness. Let’s see if we can hit the play button on positivity more than we have. Once we do, I believe it will give us pause.