Norman Vincent Peale on “What’s My Line?” in 1957
Norman Vincent Peale on “What’s My Line?” in 1957
Screenshot: YouTube

It’s Thursday, which makes it almost Friday. Welcome back to our daily open thread.

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I was reading an article on CNN this morning about Trump’s roots in Norman Vincent Peale’s brand of positive thinking, a connection I didn’t know much about. The CNN article reads, “But in a way, [Trump spiritual advisor Paula] White perfectly captures the problem with positive thinking: It tries to twist every situation into a ‘victory,’ even when reality demonstrates otherwise.” I’d always considered the positive thinking movement a historical relic, thinking it had its heyday in the New Thought movement of the 1800s, so it was interesting to consider its current political ramifications.

I try to generally be positive about things, not from the idea that there’s some deity with a plan but more because I try to believe that people are, at their core, pretty OK and want to do good things given the best circumstances. This is a belief that definitely gets me into trouble, as I can sometimes be a bit more trusting or forgiving of people than I probably should. One of the things that drew me to studying religion is an interest in how people make sense out of their lives and the things that happen to them. When someone does something shitty, I try to imagine the meaning-making that went into their choices. I don’t think anyone, even the seemingly worst people, sit around plotting evil; I want to believe they think they’re doing the right thing, even when I can’t possibly fathom how they came to that conclusion or when all evidence points to the contrary. I don’t know if this project is always worth it, especially these days, and I don’t want to be naive, but at the very least it makes me feel better than just throwing up my hands and going “wow, that person sucks.”

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Do you try to look on the bright side? How’s it going?  

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