The Plague of No, a manifesto

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“Thinking [a certain] way tends to be so easy and automatic it doesn’t have to be a choice” – David Foster Wallace.

As Wallace so descriptively and captivatingly reveals the automatic default we are prone to when it comes to focusing on “me,” instead of being compassionate and understanding, another default that I have begun to see appear is what will be called here the ” plague of no.”

It starts off as a small muttering, “sorry, I can’t. Have to do homework, I can’t help you.” And it’s justifiable right, because you’re sick and tired and you’ve been up since 3 in the morning to cram for that test you don’t much care for and opened up your fridge to see five burgers lying around. And of course, no one should be a “yes man” all the time.

But then it starts to spread, instead of watching cartoons or reading books with flying unicorns and dragons and asking “why not?,” a small smirk appears in your face at the ridiculousness of such a notion. It’s common science that such things don’t exist, and you close the book or TV channel. And you feel empowered, to say no, because tell the truth, do you really want to go to your friend’s party, or hike up that mountain? But before the year is done, “nos” have crowded your brain, slipping off your tongue before even thinking. No, I can’t. No, I’m busy, sorry, can’t go.

What if we started asking “why not?” Sure, physical activity may not be your thing, but there will never be a time when you can hike up a mountain at this exact day (March 5th by the way) in this year (2014, as you probably already know) with your friend. And what if a beautiful sunset is awaiting you at the end of the hike, or you happen to meet Richard Branson on that hike, and what if coincidentally, your future girlfriend or boyfriend is having a picnic somewhere? And sure, work is important. Study is important. But don’t fill your head with excuses to stay in a place you’re comfortable with. Yes, all of these “what ifs,” they may not be real, but if the first thing out of your mouth is “no,” then nothing will be real because in your mind they are not real and the mind shapes everything.

A wise friend once asked me,”What’s really important to you?” And that got me thinking. Would you rather live your life going through the motions, doing what others wish you to be, because yes, pass, get good grades, but don’t forget what’s important. Because marks and grades will only be with you a fraction of your life; if it’s dance and writing and helping children, or kicking a soccer ball that fuels you, do it. Because why not?




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