Podcast: Is It Okay to Be Happy In Dark Times?
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F1: You're listening to the Uptown Bourgeois podcast. Let's be weird snobby and intellectual together.
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M1: This week, I want to talk about happiness or really, how to cling to your happiness when everyone else is outraged. (clip): As human beings , we have this unique ability to have our minds stray away from the present.
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F4: This guy is sitting here working on his computer. And yet he could be thinking about the vacation he had last month. Wonder what he was going to have for dinner. Maybe he's worried that he's going bald. This ability to focus our attention on something other than the present is really amazing. It allows us to learn and plan and reason in ways that no other species of animal can and yet it's not clear what the relationship is between our use of disability and our happiness. You've probably heard people suggest that you should stay focused on the present. Be here now. You've probably heard a hundred times maybe, to really be happy, we need to stay completely immersed and focused on our experience in the moment.
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M1: Maybe these people are right. Maybe mind wandering is a bad thing.
That clip was from a TED talk by Matt Killingsworth, a happiness researcher. He created a way to track people's happiness through their iPhones and his research suggested that we're actually not happier when our minds wander. We're happiest when we stay present in the moment. But let's take this one step further. What if you stay in the moment. But then you want to share that moment online. In my experience , trying to share that happy moment with others digitally is a mistake. Let's use Oprah Winfrey's Golden Globes speech as an example. (clip) I've interviewed and portrayed people who've withstood some of the ugliest things life can throw at you but the one quality all of them seem to share is an ability to maintain hope for a brighter morning.
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F2: Even during our darkest nights.
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F3: So I want all the girls watching here now to know that a new day is on the horizon!
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M1: This was an era - defining moment for us. In the span of nine minutes, Oprah glided effortlessly between the weighty topics of sexual misconduct, toxic patriarchy, freedom of the press, class, race, and social equity. It was impressive, truly a master class on how to deliver a speech. For a moment, at a time when so many people are divided, we had a chance to come together. But not for long. We were all pumped up on euphoria, right? We were so starved for eloquent public speaking that we immediately tried to force Oprah to run for president, even if ultimately, putting another TV celebrity in office isn't the best idea. It was appealing Sunday night and most of Monday.
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M2: (clip) All right, the breaking news we just reported moments ago. Brian Stelter said that Oprah Winfrey is actively thinking that, the quote, actively thinking, those words in quotation marks, about a possible White House run in 2020. That's according to people close to her who have spoken to her about this subject. This begs more discussion immediately.
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M1: That was a clip from CNN. I think any person who's remotely liberal was thrilled at the prospect of Oprah 2020. But almost immediately, people started to shit on her. There was some sharp - tongued criticism about her brand of neoliberalism published in The Guardian. There was a meme circulating that showed Oprah cuddling up to Harvey Weinstein, obviously an old photo taken before his reckoning. Megyn Kelly discounted the entire Time's Up initiative and questioned whether any of it, Oprah's speech and all, made a difference. There was this knee - jerk reaction. People were happy about something so now the other half of the Internet needed to ruin it. We're living in an era of rage and negativity. Both are in vogue and if you're happy at all you're the enemy.
I wrote an essay this week titled “For everyone who dares to be happy”. And on this topic I wrote the following, “What irritates me about the situation has nothing to do with Oprah and everything to do with this culture of outrage and hypercriticism that begins almost immediately after anything positive or negative happens. It seems at every turn, there's someone waiting around the corner to suck the joy out of everything, literally everything. If you want to enjoy a moment and you want that feeling of euphoria to last more than a few minutes, no matter how slight, you can't share it online.”
In other words, stay in the moment to be happy but keep it to yourself.
It's a new year and this is a new podcast. Thus, I need new sponsors. If you like what you hear and you're interested in helping make the show bigger and better, let's talk. Shoot me an email at Jefferey at uptown bourgeois dot com. That's J E F F E R E Y at uptown bourgeois dot com.
2017 was a great year for me. I had my first wedding anniversary. I was super consistent with my fitness and nutrition. I had a great professional year and met great people and all around, I created a lot of wonderful new memories. But it's not lost on me that 2017 was kind of shitty for a lot of people.
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F5: (clip) In the true spirit of the holidays.
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F6: President Trump brought the world together in universal condemnation of America. Breaking news, President Trump has had his first major defeat at the United Nations. The United Nations Security Council voting 14 to 1 on a resolution sponsored by Egypt to reject the Trump doctrine on Jerusalem being the capital of Israel.
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F5: His second major defeat actually. There's also that time he tried to rebrand the UN building as a Trump property.
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M1: That was Samantha Bee highlighting just one of several pending global disasters. This clip in particular aired the week before Christmas, as we shopped for presents for loved ones, trying our damndest to buy those gift cards in secret. A lot of shit was going wrong. This isn't to get political because this isn't a political show by any means but I want to be clear that I'm awake and I'm aware.
I'm aware that many disenfranchised groups are being threatened. I'm aware that the U.S. has become an instigator of international conflict. I'm aware that people are suffering and living in fear. I'm aware that even my rights are being threatened, as certain legislators sneakily strip away protections put in place to make sure that no one can ever block me from opportunities because of my sexuality. Yet still, I had a great year and I felt kind of guilty having a great year. It was clear that I should be angry about something if not everything. Do we have the right to be happy when people are suffering? If no, isn't that a mild form of martyrdom? If yes, how do we do it without being smug?
Ultimately, I think it's not about comparing yourself to anyone else. You can celebrate great moments without being oblivious to what's happening in the rest of the country or the world. Your happiness isn't an excuse to ignore those who need help. But the fact that others need help doesn’t mean you can’t have happiness. Does that make sense?
If you're not familiar with Thrive Global, it's a company founded by Arianna Huffington that focuses on sleep and wellness. Thrive Global's blog has a great piece on four steps you can take to stay happy in a negative world. It's written by Scott Livingston. Step 1. Accept that you have a tendency to give in to negativity because it's easier to overcome things when you admit they exist. Step 2, be aware of those times when you're exhibiting negativity. Keep track of them in a journal if you must. But figuring out how often you’re negative is illuminating. Step 3, hold yourself accountable when negative thoughts start. Redirect your energy. There's a piece here about intentional breathing, where you take five long deep breaths to clear your mind clutter. It's kind of like a short form of meditation. And Step 4, adaptation. Take what you've learned about yourself and apply it. Now that you know you’re negative, turn it around.
We live in a world that's super negative and argumentative and divisive. Not to get all hippy on you but we have to find ways to be positive and abandon that bad energy because it manifests in undesirable ways. Before I go I want to share a passage from my favorite read of the week. It's actually from Rolling Stone, a profile of Mutha Erykah Badu written up by David Brown. When asked about whether she's pessimistic or optimistic about current times, she said, “Always optimistic. I see what's happening as a rebirthing process and labor is hard. You don't know what's going to happen. You have to wait until you’re dilated to 10 before you can give birth. We at about a five right now.” I thought it was profound in only a way that Erykah Badu can be and reading that passage made me feel more optimistic. Maybe in addition to being weird snobby and intellectual together, we can be optimistic too.
Thanks so much for listening to the Uptown Bourgeois podcast. Check back for new episodes every week and subscribe on iTunes or SoundCloud so you never miss out. If you love it,
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F1: share it with your friends. If not, shoot me an email and let me know what you'd like me to talk about. Until next week.
This podcast was transcribed using Simon Says.