Friday, June 6, 2008

Negative thinking

Yesterday upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn't there.
He wasn't there again today,
Oh how I wish he'd go away!

(Hughes Mearns. Antigonish 1899)

- Give me an ice cream without flavor
- Without what flavor?
- Without vanilla.
- Ain't got no ice without vanilla.
- OK, gimme one without strawberry!

(Old American joke).

Two antagonistic salesmen meet on the train.
- Where are you going?
- To Mink
- Ha! You tell me you are going to Mink, so that I think you are going to Pink. But you bastard, are really going to Mink. So why are you lying?

(Russian-Jewish joke).

What is common in all three texts is the affirmation of a negation. The man who wasn't there, the ice without flavor and the true statement which is marked as a lie (because a lie is expected) have a common denominator. Negative thinking.


Aphrodite said...

"If there's not drama and negativity in my life, all my songs will be really wack and boring or something."



And on a more serious note,

"............. is the complete negation of common sense and sound reason."

This quote is actually a great predictor/descriptor of a man's beliefs: what one fills in the blanks with, speaks volumes of what one stands for.

What word would you use?

PS- M.Bakunin, who actually said it, used "Christianity"...


Anonymous said...


Who can tell whether a thought, an action as it meets mater, is negative or positive?
How could somebody define given limited, by time alone, criteria? What can be called definite, when time is by definition indefinite, since measuring each and every consequence remains merely an attempt to measure the measureless?

A question's purpose for example -half its nature one could say- is the upcoming answering. But can we claim that without it a question is a negative sum, when it is used to create an answer? To conclude, my standing on definitions of any kind is that they will always be decisions, points of view in both time and place where positive and negative, good and bad or black and white only exist as self defining(actually deciding) coordinates...

Anonymous said...

P.S: Deciding, and yet predefined! :ppp
I know, OMG kai tria lol!

takis vasilopoulos said...

Maybe I am beside the mark...

We exist and do not exist the same time...

We have to use the negative thinking in order to understand the positive thinking and the opposite...

Dickinson,in order to be somebody in her world,said that she is nobody in this world << I'm Nobody! Who are you? Are you—Nobody—Too? >> ...

And a beautiful poem of Rumi

I Am and I Am Not

I’m drenched
in the flood
which has yet to come

I’m tied up
in the prison
which has yet to exist

Not having played
the game of chess
I’m already the checkmate

Not having tasted
a single cup of your wine
I’m already drunk

Not having entered
the battlefield

I’m already wounded and slain

I no longer
know the difference
between image and reality

Like the shadow
I am


I am not

doodler said...

To be more philo-sophical:

Negation is the logical value of a proposition, that sends true to false and false to true.

A famous example, the Epimenides paradox:

"Epimenides the Cretan said: All Cretans lie".

Yannis H said...

Excellent! On the opposite, we have double affirmation: the joke with the elephant behind the daisy (you see how nice the elephant hides itself?)

ghost said...

This reminded me of an old joke (which I found on MathVentures:

- The language teacher: "In most languages a double negative means the positive but in no language a double positive means the negative."
- A student at the back of the classroom sneers: "Yeah, yeah!"

Another interesting Zen story may put things into perspective:

- Two men were arguing about a flag flapping in the wind.
- "It's the wind that is really moving," stated the first one.
- "No, it is the flag that is moving," contended the second.
- A Zen master, who happened to be walking by, overheard the debate and interrupted them.
- "Neither the flag nor the wind is moving," he said, "It is MIND that moves."

Anonymous said...

Ok, but why "negative" and not "controversial", "self-contravening" or "self-disputing"?

If somebody says "Faith in God will eventually set us free", why would that be conceived either as a true statement or as false one. For the first Christian populations that was "true" in the beginning, but weren't they enslaved in a different way later, or at the very same time to be more precise?

Isn't taking sides all we've got after all when it comes to understanding-conceiving reality?

doodler said...

negation has nothing to do with controversy, doubt, dispute etc. It is not skeptical but dogmatic. It is self-annuling. A "contradictio in termine" it asserts non-being. It has to do with the concept of null, zero or void.

Nyaya in Buddhist thought - ablolute zere, self extinction.

Stavros Katsaris said...

Even if my own subject is in previous post I begin from here!
All times my disposal has negative tendencies rational surrealism saves to me the things!

doodler said...

"Rational surrealism"?


jaded man said...

While reading the post I was reminded of the following joke:

Two guys meet in the road.
The first guy asks "Didn’t I meet you once in Moscow?'"
The second guy replies "No, I never was in Moscow."
And the first guy says "Come to think of it, neither was I. It must have been two other fellows."

Ein Steppenwolf said...

Russian political joke

A man walks into a shop and says, "I see you don't have any fish", and the shop assistant replies, "You got it wrong - ours is a butcher's: we don't have any meat. They don't have any fish in the fish shop that is across the road!"

tassos georgakopoulos said...

Negative thinking.
How often and for how long do we have in our lifetime the courage to combine or recompose the opposites?