Behold the power of negative thinking

On my all-time favorite list of famous last words, nothing truly tops the last request of a murderer facing a Utah firing squad who supposedly asked for a bulletproof vest.

If one could somehow scientifically determine the crudest, nastiest, foulest and all-around most dangerous four-letter word in the English language, I’d place all my chips on “hope” any day of the week. Concepts with slightly higher word counts such as “organized religion” and “the military” might have indeed made a valiant attempt at mucking everything up – that much is true. But for sheer mindless destructive power, nothing truly beats the antiquated, obnoxious notion that somehow things will eventually get better.

After all, what exactly has blindly looking on the bright side of life gotten civilization in the progress department, really? Not a hell of a lot, quite frankly. Here are a few brief historical examples of why I think it just doesn’t pay to cheer up, philosophically speaking.

Joan of Arc, a perpetually bubbly woman, thought God called on her personally to kick England out of her native France. Instead, she quickly ended up arrested, imprisoned, raped, tortured and burned at the stake. Joseph Stalin, another idealist at heart, refused to accept the fact that communism only technically worked on paper. Oh sure, he created an impressively tall pile of corpses out in the Siberian snow, but total economic equality and eradication of all human selfishness and greed always sadly eluded him.

On a more recent note of happily naive thought processes, even if you do successfully sue every major fast food restaurant for all they’re worth, you’re still disgustingly fat and dangerously overweight. Regardless of how many times you tune in to watch the latest episode of “The Apprentice,” your job totally sucks and you still can’t afford to quit yet. No matter how many Iraqi “insurgent militants” you blow up, they will always hate Americans in general and will probably eventually win the war. And I don’t care what anti-spam software package you just bought, your inbox will be inundated with penis enlargement offers this morning just the same.

But on the pro-depression front, The Wall Street Journal reported April 6 that the best way to fight incurable, miserably painful diseases such as cancer might be with a good old-fashioned frowny face. According to the article, researchers from the American Cancer Society and the Stanford University School of Medicine all came to the same startling conclusion: Joining a weepy support group and being a brave inspiration to others does diddly-squat. You’re still going to die – wet blanket or no wet blanket.

Another notable rebel currently fighting “the tyranny of positivity” is Julie Norem, a psychology professor at Wellesley College in Massachusetts. In her 2002 book, “The Positive Power Of Negative Thinking,” Norem convincingly argues that “defensive pessimism” can not only help you convincingly argue that the martini glass is half empty at cocktail parties, but that downbeat contrarian doubt is all you really need to mentally get ahead in life. Heartwarming stuff, huh?

The truth is that none of this stuff really matters in the end. And I’m here to tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that it’s only after you realize how pointless it all is in the grand cosmic scheme of things that everything ultimately becomes possible. Nothing can stop you if you don’t care what happens to you, right? To paraphrase the avant-garde musician John Cage, the highest purpose in nature’s operation is to have no purpose at all.

Observing the tenets of Murphy’s Law to the letter remains the only rational response one could conceive in light of our abhorrent modern existence. If you always constantly expect the worse to happen, one is never disappointed and even occasionally pleasantly surprised when you’re rarely proven otherwise.

I suppose it’s possible The Minnesota Daily might outsource my column one day to India, but hey, that just proves globalization is making the U.S. economy even stronger, right? According to the latest U.S. Department of Labor economic report, I might instead be able to score a “manufacturing” gig with the fastest growing job category in the country: fast food restaurants. Making $20,000 a year as top salary? Hot damn! Thanks a million, Mr. President! Go Bush!

Finally, isn’t it time we as Americans finally give bad attitudes a chance? Who’s it going to hurt, really?

Nathan Hall welcomes comments at [email protected]