Happy Mortal

This life, well-lived.

Inspiring Negativity: Kids


So many “inspiring” quotes or phrases have the glow of positivity.  From motivational posters to famous orations, rhetoric designed to rev our engines usually speaks to the dignity, possibility, and meaningfulness of human being.  But as I reflect on those phrases that have had the most “positive” impact on my life, I realize that many of them are negative.  This is a blog series dedicated to those things that inspire me in spite of and because of a their negativity.

Negative Inspiration #1:

Raising kids is not always a joy.

This one came from my Dad.  He told me this on a train ride from Italy to Switzerland when I was fourteen.  It immediately created a split within me.  I was crushed.  My Mom’s side of the family had always told me I was the greatest thing since Ang the Last Airbender.  My fourteen year-old ego staggered at the thought that maybe my Dad did not consider me the blissful center of his universe.

But I was simultaneously exhilarated.  Not being the center of the universe really takes a load off.  I caught a glimpse of the fact that I am part of a larger network–something bigger than me, with many centers.   It’s not up me to hold the entire fabric of my friends and family together.  It also told me that I could be both a joy and a pain, so I should weigh how my actions might affect those around me.

Still inspiring.  Thanks Dad, for bursting my bubble.


  1. Ah, what a good perspective. Great share, Will.

  2. First off, I like the take on negativity. Second, this anecdote reminds me of a passage from Ernest Becker’s Denial of Death, where he explains the counter-intuitive burden that the sadist has to shoulder in a sado-masochistic relationship.

    They have all the power of a god, and at first that’s exhilarating. But as the cliche goes, “with great power comes great responsibility.” That responsibility begins to wear on the person who thought they held all the power. This is the subtle undoing of god (the sadist), because at the end of the day it is the one who worships that holds all the cards.

  3. I feel like Becker’s take on Sadism is forcefully illustrated in some instances of fan/celebrity culture. In the case of some fans, adoration equals ownership. They want a genie, not a god: I LOVE you so play for me, dance for me, love me back. Here are two of my favorite explorations of this phenomenon:

    1. Eminem’s song, Stan.
    2. The third episode on season one of the TV show Dollhouse.

  4. Wait. Did airbender exist when you were 14?

  5. You caught me! No, that was an anachronistic use of Avatar. (really, though, when you think about it, there has always been an Avatar). But that was the basic message anyway. Not always a bad thing, just needed some balance.