Positive Thinking and the Pendulum Theory

     Recently, Eutychus wrote a very intriguing post called " The Pendulum revisited: Phoenix Suns Apologetics101 ".  It discussed his Pendulum Theory, and as most things do, it got me to thinking - always dangerous, because when I think, I write, and most of you seem to have made at least some attempt to wade through my somewhat...wordy...posts.


     I can't promise this one won't get wordy, but my focus today is somewhat simple.  It's about being positive.


     Many of you know me as a positive thinker.  I'm sure I make some of you physically ill, sometimes - sorry about that.  But for me, it's become a way of life, something I've chosen to do and be because it makes me happy.  I keep score in my life, day by day, and I'm proud to say that most months, I have 28 or so good days, and maybe 2 or 3 bad days.  I do that by being positive - and I'm winning.  But it hasn't always been that way.


I am 53 years old.  25 years ago, I found myself divorced, estranged from my young son, living alone and lonely, and drinking more than Sun God, Wil, and Scott claim to drink combined.  My beloved Mother had passed away, and my social life consisted of rather blurry one night stands or awkward drunken attempts at one night stands.  My sister, having gone through something similar, gave me a bunch of self-help books that were all the rage, and which I found - well - stupid.  The only prevailing thought that I took from those books was that I was largely responsible for my own feelings, as well as my own life.


     I took it from there, and went through a period of introspection.  I came to terms with the losses in my life, and determined to never be a victim again.  My life started to get better - I stopped drinking, changed my life, and found that I was becoming...happy.  I learned to be happy alone.  I learned to be happy when not everything was going right.  I learned to enjoy the good things, and ignore the things that would have sent me into a spiral of depression before.  I learned some basic truths about life - that family is everything, and friends are often not as good as I thought they were.  That feeling things that other people thought I should feel was a quick recipe for disaster.  That there is always something good in your life, no matter how bad it seems.

      I say all this as a bit of testimonial - I am not naturally happy, or positive.  I work at it.  I've studied it.  It is my answer to the Pendulum Theory - I stopped my pendulum from swinging to extremes, and learned how to keep it on the 'Bright Side'.  

     I discovered a movie called "What the Bleep Do We Know" - an ambitious independent film starring Mary Matlin which looks at quantum physics, physiology, and consciousness.  A lot of the science is dubious and beyond me.  But there was one aspect of the film that has stuck with me - the fact that emotions are controlled in our body by the secretion of 'peptides'.  Our body's cells build receptors on their outer walls to receive the peptides that are most prevalent in the bloodstream, causing a physical addiction to certain emotions, both bad and good.  Having a very addictive personality, this has intrigued me.

     It can explain the phenomena of an abused kid becoming an abusive parent, why an abused woman returns again and again to her abusive husband or seeks another abusive relationship.  It explains why some people seem mired in failure, while other people can fall into a pile of dung and come up smelling like roses.  In my mind, it explains why I am happy.  It's also why I reject negative thinking.  I don't want to become addicted to it.

      So yeah, this really is about basketball.  It's about this blog, and it's about the Suns, it's about culture, and pendulums, and me and you.  I've taken some crap here for my unrelenting optimism, well deserved, and I've given out more than my fair share of crap, too.  If I've offended anybody, I'm sorry (not really).

     Last year, the operative word was 'chemistry'.  We had it, we had it in spades, we had so much, it oozed.  It spawned drinking games, and articles, and envy across the league, and it was a convenient sound byte for broadcasters to fill 20 seconds with.  It implied a special knowledge of the team, and an explanation for the Suns apparent overachievements.  It was a ready excuse for teams who lost to us, and an occasional snicker for the less spiritual in the sports world.

      I recently commented that "Success breeds success."  Somehow, that was offensive to some here.  Since this is one of my core beliefs, let me explain what I mean.  I believe that succeeding increases the chances of future success, that winning is contagious, that believing you can win is essential to winning.  One of the first steps I took in improving my life was to stop hanging out with losers.  It worked.  Losing is contagious, too.  And cliches become cliches because of the inherent truth of them.

      Last year, The Suns started off 14-3, then went 7-9 two months in a row, then ended the season on a 28-7 run.  What changed?  What were the causes?  Was it the wild swinging of the Eutychus Pendulum?  Was it injuries, the return of Lopez, the benching of Amar'e, the emergence of the second unit?  Yes.  Yes, it was.  It was all those things, and more.  And out of those fires, the Suns forged a culture.

     Culture is a word that has many, many meanings.  Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn compiled a list of 164 definitions of "culture" in Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions.  But for our purposes, we'll stick with these two definitions:


  • The set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution, organization or group
  • An integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for symbolic thought and social learning.  

 Many of you know that I live in the BSotS archives.  In college, I had a professor who taught what he termed 'historiography' - it describes the study of history within a historical context.  So, for instance, reading a 1902 history textbook might not tell you exactly what happened between the U.S. Government and the Native American population in the late 19th century, but it will tell you what the people in 1902 thought about it.  Reading "The Diary of Anne Frank" can give you insights that "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" can't.  So I'm fond of going back into the archives to see what the team was doing game by game, as well as what people were saying about it.  I also like to go to our competitor blogs - it's amazing how pessimistic people can be, even on 'Pounding The Rock', the 15-3 Spurs SB Nation fansite.  Check out SS&R today - you'd never know the Lakers are 13-6 (which I think any Suns fan would be ecstatic with right now.)  Blogs are snapshots, essentially social gathering places for people of like mind and interest to discuss, rant, vent, argue, bitch, laugh, and cry together.  It's not necessarily a culture - it's not like we actually change the outcomes of games, or even influence line-ups, trades, or performances, but it lets us believe that SOMEBODY agrees with us.  It fills a basic human need to share, and enhances our enjoyment of the game and season experience.  

I have trouble hanging out in the game threads.  I really do.  I understand the need to vent, but when I read "Here we go again..." the pressure builds in my head to the point where it feels like a balloon.  So I try to ignore it, and I'm mostly successful.  Game threads are a different thing, they are in the moment.  But game previews, or wrap-ups are different.   Basketball games are works of art.  They are creations of something out of nothing, contests of skill given a fixed palette of tools, and each one is unique.  Yes there are tendencies, trends, external influences, and randomness involved, but each one is unique.  The games weave together to make up a season of 82 games.  This season, in my mind, has been a bit atypical - 2 weeks ago, the Lakers looked unbeatable, the Knicks looked terrible, Miami (of course) was the subject of much it's different.  Now, there are reports of Amar'e (Amar'e!?!?!?) and his leadership, of Ron Artest wearing out his welcome in LA, now the Heat are juggernauts again - all in the space of 14 days.  Most of this is due to the 24 hour news cycle - the need to manufacture stories to fill dead air-time.  I guess it's mostly a good thing that the Suns are largely ignored - they weren't much of a story last year until the WCF.  At least true Phoenix fans know what's up, right?


 I plan to talk about the culture of the Suns as a team - a lot.  But not today.  Today is about BSotS - about us, as a community  and a culture.  I didn't write this as an exhortation to never be negative - one of the main functions of this place is to provide a forum for that, so you don't take it out on your 4 year old or your significant other.  But negativity is contagious, as well.  


     I had an exchange with Jaxis in our last game thread, the overtime loss to the Grizzlies.  He was very down, and didn't understand how I could be happy after such a tough loss.  I explained my feelings, and it seemed to make an impression on him.  I hope it did.  I come here to BSotS to be with some of my friends, to talk basketball, and to share the game experience.  It pains me when my friends are so unhappy over things that are out of their control.  BSotS is a mix of young and old, with people from all over the country and the world, different lives, and experiences, and outlooks.  But I believe that it's part of the human experience to be happy - or at least, it should be.  


     This is a great, great place to hang out.  Superb writing and moderation, a great team to root for, a common experience among diverse people - what's not to love?  I've learned most everything I know about basketball here.  There are people here who make me happy, and who I consider a kind of friend, even though I've never met them and don't know their names.  I belly laugh at comments every day - and belly laughs are rare.  There are some smart people here, and you all have made my life better.  So I hope this can make your life a little better, take some of the sting out of the losses and make the wins more precious.  But more than that, if it gives anybody a better day, I've already won today.


Check out RMason's post - it's freaking great.  

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