No Whine Zone

I have been known to whine a bit.

I know - that's like saying Michael Phelps is known to swim from time to time - but I've been making an effort to bitch less of late. When I catch myself being critical, I stop and try to come up with a positive thing to say about the topic at hand. It's actually a great exercise for developing self-control, critical thinking, and mental acuity, not to mention improving your attitude over all, but it has brought another problem to light. I have discovered that without critical, judgmental, and generally snarky commentary, I have very little to say.

Some of you (particularly the local Flock) might be of the opinion that I could afford to shut up a bit anyway, and you wouldn't be wrong. In fact, the basic rules of Zen, the Ten Grave Precepts, contain three injunctions against negative speech - specifically prohibiting lying, speaking of faults of others, and praising yourself while abusing others. Take away those three types of communication, and it gets pretty quiet around here.

While I was on my recent flights to and from Reno I thought about this quite a bit. Actually, whenever I get on a plane, I divide my time between trying to guess which passengers will get hysterical when the oxygen masks fall from the ceiling, and thinking about my own spiritual state. I also like to try to catch a glimpse of the pilots, to see if they have that far away, Vietnam vet sort of stare - but my flying phobia is another post.

During those flights, I decided that with the new semester fast approaching, it was time to step it up a notch and try to take this positivity thing to a new level. I decided that when the masks fell, I would be the person who says to everyone else, "Cool! I've never been in a plane emergency before! This is going to make a great blog post!"

That brand of positivity is something the world could use more of, and I plan to implement it in my life, immediately like. Of course, my position as a self-appointed internet spiritual leader requires that I drag you all along. Join me, or be branded "heretic!"

It's not that I am suggesting that you be a yes man, and accept everything that comes at you. It's more that there are things that must be overcome - there is no dodging, no replay, no whining your way out of it - and those things should be attempted in as cheerful a way as possible. If the plane is going to crash, I will first assume that I will survive it, and then I will be as helpful as possible to those around me. I might even convince them that they will survive it, too.

There were guys I knew who were lifers in the military who were possessed of a certain attitude that made them great soldiers. It was called many things - "can do" and "ooh rah" were the most common in my experience. Those terms are a kind of verbal shorthand for "yes, I will get this done and I will enjoy it!" In fact, ooh rah was used as an answer for just about everything.

An example:
Sgt: "Maggot, you are ate the fuck up! Can you UA the AO?"
Soldier: "Ooh rah!"

Sgt: "Oh dear! You appear to be injured. Can you safely leave the area of operations under you own power, or shall I call an ambulance for you?"
Soldier: "Yes, I am injured - thank you for noticing. I am, however, capable of walking and will do so; I wouldn't want to be a bother."

I'm sure it sounds silly, especially to my jaded, internet savvy, and thus uber-cynical readers, but that brand of positivity is infectious. When the drill instructor tells you to do 100 push ups in the slimy mud, you may not want to... but when everyone around you screams "ooh rah!" and assumes the forward leaning rest position, you do too. And you fucking like it.

Of course, we are not soldiers, and this is not a war. It's just life - but we could all afford to be a bit more warrior-like in our pursuit of it. Every day is a mission to be completed. No amount of bitching will change that, but a bit of positivity can make it a lot less shitty, for you and everyone around you. And like it or not, we ARE all on the same team. If you make it better for those around you, it will be better for you as well.

What do you need to be positive about today? Tell us about it, then get busy doing it!


inkandpen said...

Hey Pontiff,
I almost never comment here, but this post was something I really needed today. I'm a Ph.D. student, 5th year, and have been doing a lot more whining than writing on the papers/chapters on my plate right now. And the whining is satisfying, in its own way, but ultimately leaves my days non-productive, more work for tomorrow, and furthermore, keeps me from sleeping decently at night. A bit more can-do is just what I'm looking for-- and you're right, it's nothing more than a decision, a resolution, to get from here to there. So thanks. Gotta go get writing.

Linus said...


Your comments may be rare, but they are always cogent, sound, and concise - as your dissertation will no doubt be as well... :)

Good luck!

Unknown said...

You have now joined the ranks of the Uber Minions with this post.
You can expect an induction on Tuesday.

Linus said...


We have quite the mutual appreciation society going on here... ;)
Thank you - I'm flattered. Consider yourself beatified!

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