The upside of a downturn...
Point of view is essential in thriving during difficult circumstances. In his book Man's Searching For Meaning Viktor Frankl made a crucial observation about the psychology of those who survived the Holocaust and those who didn't. It was in the art of living. While in concentration camp he was determining that if there was meaning in life, then suffering had some meaning and mental attitude towards it determined the outcome of having suffered. This lead him to the conclusion that inner strength and refusal to surrender to the horrors of the concentration camp and instead looking to the future made the difference in who made it and who didn't.
While we live in an economic downturn that means a long term recovery period is ahead it cannot be compared to the horrors of a concentration camp. It means difficult times and the need to readjust standards of living but it is not the tragedy some people will take it as. Those are the people who will not do well because they are not looking toward the future down the road to better times but are living in the past and not accepting the present. Those of us who look across a barren empty lot and see the one flower blooming will flourish and see the future as blossoming into something better.
Yesterday I was driving through the high desert of dry grassland and off in the distance I could see the one large hardy tree that had drilled a taproot deep into the earth and was drawing water to live. I saw beauty in that landscape and that tree. It was a marvelous thing and had nothing to do with economic indicators being all down, whether the debt ceiling was raised by Congress, whether Obama settled for "The Deal." There was only one person who had any beauty in the questionable politics of the vote in Congress, although she may not match the political beliefs of some of us, in the ceremony of mockery our politicians made of our country she stood out.
It was Gabrielle Giffords who exemplified someone who tragically suffered at the hands of someone else and saw the future and fought not only to survive but thrive and come back from the calamity that struck her.
If we are to not only live and survive through the next decade in rebuilding our lives and our country we must adopt a vantage point of survival that is conducive to thriving and conquering arduous times. My suggestion is not only to live creatively, but devise ways to make what appears at first to be ugly, turning them beautiful. You do not need to be an artist to do this. You don't have to be able to paint, draw, take photographs or create videos, do crafts, lathe fine furniture, grow a beautiful garden. You simply have to find the aesthetic out of even the bleakest of scenes.
When I was growing up my father did work that took him to third and fourth world countries, some are now emerging economies but at the time they were not. Although we had to be mindful of our safety it was not as dangerous as today and we went to far flung places. The education I received was more than I could learn in any school. I will share one story that has stuck with me my entire life. It was in a place quite close to the US and under the most deplorable conditions we went to visit a family that he had come to know. They treasured knowledge and were especially grateful to him because he would bring them books. All over the walls of the shack they lived in a shantytown were cutouts from magazines or any source they could find of pictures of things of beauty. They might have come from advertisements that depicted something unique or a work of fine art. Outside the home was ugly, inside they were surrounded by pictorial items to inspire and comfort them.
There is a lot we can learn from that.