Us, Hungarians have always been great warriors. Toldi Miklós1 would be proud seeing the devotion we chase the enemy with. Our everyday lives are filled to the brim with a noble mission, unleashing the power hidden in the universe. “Aw, not again!” we wail fiercely. “Fucking hell, I can't believe it happened!” we thunder with glowing eyes, as if we were about to conquer the world. Then we proudly inflate our chests, for once again we have acted heroically. We have fearlessly employed every four-letter word in the dictionary.
Our modern national sport, whining, has two main varieties. The first is plain everyday moaning and griping, classic Eastern European depression. The other is the raging, cursing style. You'd think that women would identify with the first variant while macho men would go for the second option, but no, emancipation is now complete. Ten-year-old girls can cuss as fiercely as dock workers, and muscular, tattooed dudes can bawl like babies at the terrible injustices they face.
Complaints are usually believed to be caused by events of the world. If this was true, the population of the third world would have cried themselves to death long ago. But they shake off their problems like ducks shake off water.
Let us be clear: The traumas that led to the prevalent emotional state in our parts are real. There are real reasons for the anger and the pain, and in that sense it is all perfectly 'legitimate'. The only question is how many millenia do we want to dwell on past and present grievances. If the gold medal of the Frustration Championship is in our sights, we are on the right track. But if we want to feel more comfortable, a different strategy may be better, not to mention that some optimism and enthusiasm can come in handy in solving problems.
Although our grandparents and other ancestors had their share of less than ideal events, looking around the planet we have to admit that our lives are quite sheltered and comfortable. You might even say that we live in amazing abundance and security. Unlike, for example, the people of the Near East, where the original accumulation of neuroses is in full swing. Syria (which is way better off than Libya or Yemen) has lately been bombed by more than forty countries. It was almost like a picnic. “What are you guys doing this weekend?” “Well, we're going to pummel some granaries and playgrounds, because obviously, that's where the terrorists are hiding. How about you?” “Oh, we've been doing that for months, it’s time to find a new game.”
So poor Arabs will also need some healing, although they may arrive there easier because they have a different attitude. Probably the spirituality still present in everyday life will help. Let's not go that far now, just examine what happens when we adopt the approach of a friend of mine from Transylvania. When something happens, the first question he poses to himself is the following: ‘What’s positive in this event?’
When winning the lottery that question may be a bit superfluous, but let's try it with a minor annoyance. I'm writing this on the train. What's so great about the fact that the phone sex lady (Hungarian Railways has recently replaced the former announcer with a lewd voice with incorrect intonation) is blaring nonsense in my ears every two minutes?
Um, er, uh. Well, it teaches detachment from external stimuli. Hungarian Railways as a great promoter of Zen spirit! Its blundering efforts also remind us that it’s high time to develop strategies for being well in an institutional system whose I.Q. is in free fall. One certainly is in no danger of falling asleep on the train and missing their stop. The voice also increases your motivation to do something about harmonious train sounds. Besides giving me a handy example of what I am writing about. And so on. Some of the arguments put forward may be forced, but they do give a different perspective. We have moved out of the victim role. Something we thought we were unbeatable at here in Eastern Europe. Sadly, there are other professional contenders of this race:
OK, let's tackle a more serious problem. What's good about Covid? Well, first of all, we survived. Not everyone, but those who did can be proud for having a strong system. And, while the epidemic didn't go away, it did become milder. Also, it became clearer than the sun that the authorities of almost every country are utterly incapable of doing their job. They deny there is a problem, act irrationally, insist on fake solutions, use the situation for personal gain, etc. We could sob about this, too, but the fact that the whole population is aware of the situation is a step forward. We now know that the next crisis can only be overcome by grassroots cooperation, and it’s time to prepare. In addition, those interested in biology could learn about viruses. We’ve known for a long time that bacteria are important and useful, but I, for example, didn't understand what viruses were for. People have renovated their homes with many moving to the countryside, starting to live a more natural life. We’ve seen that globalisation is not necessarily a winning strategy. And so on.
I wonder what happens when you ask yourself that question for a month, a week, a day for every event. What's good about this? How can I use it? How can I turn it to my advantage? What can I learn from it? How can I be more as a result?
Even more interesting is how we can collectively pose that question, growing from challenging experiences. At the siege of Eger2 Bornemissza Gergely didn't whine about how unfair it was, what with 150,000 Turks against 2,000 of us. He began manufacturing some hellish devices instead. Shawnee Indians used a preventive strategy: Newborns were immersed in ice-cold water to make them strong.
Suppose that in a (completely theoretical) country, a government becomes impossible to get rid off. There are elections but the place functions as a virtual one-party system. Political power is usurped by a gang who — well, they are not unconditionally brilliant in every respect. They are not yet completely in touch with their hearts of gold, if you know what I mean. Some people join, many join a happier crowd in other countries, others turn to joints in desperation, and of course everyone howls like the wind. How cursed we are with a bad king! I wonder what positive consequences can develop from this political situation. In the Kádár regime, for example, solidarity flourished, together with art. More or less subtly hidden meaning was everywhere, having quite a beneficial effect on the collective I. Q. The following song (in Hungarian) is from an LP called ‘The Hunt’ but everyone knew what it really was about.
Then there's the situation where you're anxious for things to happen in a certain way. Because you can only feel O.K. if things turn out your way. Either Xenia goes out with you or you’ll be miserable forever. “Oh, if only I could wake up in time!” “Aw, if only I could sleep!” “Oh, I wish it would rain!” “God, I hope it won’t rain!” I think most of us are pretty good at this art. A more enthralling strategy could be to anticipate what to be happy about in the opposite case. When what you didn't want to happen happens. Like you get dumped by Xenia and are saved from going to musicals and spending time with her moronic friends.
Imagine a world where every coin has two positive sides. What would living there be like? If I wake up early, I get a lot done. If not, I finally get a good night's sleep. If there's rain, plants will flourish. No rain, we go to the beach. Figuring this out ahead of time might be a bit of an engineered, German-like attitude, but it’ll do until it comes naturally. When you really get into it, you may find that sometimes the alternative is actually better. Are you sure you want that promotion that will give you five times as much work and responsibility? It is said that jackpot winners’ lives are a mess. You haven’t realized how well off you were, have you?
But seriously, let's try it. If there's no traffic jam, I'll get there in time. If there's a jam... What on earth is good about being stuck in traffic? Well, if you get stuck in traffic again, you might want to think about other ways of getting around. Also, you can finally listen to that exciting audiobook. Of course, taking the train is better for that sort of thing. And if the train company thinks that it’s Kurdistan and the wagons have to spend a few hours sitting idle in the middle of nowhere, at least you can read in peace. Especially if you have prepared and put that interesting book in your bag.
There's a lot of talk about the glass being half empty or half full. I think it depends on what's inside. Some liquids are better perceived as empty, others as full. Ultimately, the vessel of our emotions is filled by ourselves. Or are we completely helpless pupas?
I think we actually are able to became that if that’s what we really want. Or here is a different state:
Toldi Miklós: a legendarily muscular military leader in Hungary in the 14th century.
In 1552 the united armies of Ahmed and Ali sent by Süleyman the Great could not, in a five-week siege take the middle-sized fortress of Eger. Literary sources estimated the besieging army to be 150,000 strong, later historical estimates range from 40,000 to 75,000. The relatively poorly equipped Hungarian defenders, of whom only half were professional soldiers (foreign mercenaries were conspicously lacking) used unusual tactics coupled with heroism.