James Harmon published his book, Take My Advice, as a collection of letters written to him by creative artists, writers, and philosophers. Some of the letters are very short, lasting only a page or two, and some of the letters are full essays. Joe-Peter Witkin is one artist and photographer who supplied a short page-long letter for Harmon’s book. His letter is all about perspective and interpretation, “Your life is the life of the world.” Witkin uses this quote to explain that we get to choose how we want to see the world and assign meaning to the events that occur around us. Witkin continues, “If your life is of love, the world will love. Anything less and the world will continue to bleed.”
I truly believe that we all have something inside us that urges us to be the best version of ourselves possible, and pushes us to do positive things each day. Each small positive action on its own may be meaningless, but I like to view each small positive action as a tiny grain of sand being added to the good side of a giant balance beam. The more positive acts that we put into the world, the more sand piles up on the good side, and when everyone begins to adopt this focus we pile on the positivity to outweigh the negativity.
The quote from Witkin shows that we can choose how we want to react to the world, but also how we want the world to react to us. When we begin to see good things in other people as opposed to the negative, then we change how we act towards others which in turn causes others to act more positively towards us. When we adopt a softer and more compassionate view of reality, that reality will then begin to reward us by providing us with new opportunities and positive events. Richard Wiseman in his book, 59 Seconds, would agree with Witkin, and he would push people a level further. Rather than just deciding that one would like to see the world more positively, Wiseman would return to scientific research to encourage everyone to journal about the positive events in their life, or to write about what they enjoy in other people, their job, or their city. This process forces the individual to process the good things and to truly evaluate their situation which drives the meaning to a new level in their mind. When we turn to journaling we truly shape our mind to become more positive as we learn to avoid fixating on the negativity.
I will end this post with the anecdote that Witkin used to end his letter, “Recently, I heard a story of two men who worked carrying stones. One of the men was asked what he was doing. He replied, “I carry stones.” When asked the same question, the other replied, “I’m building a cathedral.”