THE American pastor and motivational speaker Norman Peale published his best seller, The Power Of Positive Thinking in 1952. It attracted a barrage of negative reviews from mental health and even religious critics but that didn’t stop it selling more than five million copies and being translated into more than 40 languages.

Presidents Eisenhower and Nixon both consulted Peale and Donald Trump’s parents made the trip to Peale’s church in Manhattan to hear his sermons. Trump himself claims to have survived bankruptcy only as a result of Peale’s techniques.

I carry no torch for the book and indeed I tend to agree more with its critics than with its fans.

But preserving some form of positive outlook – finding a constructive way to keep looking ahead – is now massively important not just for each day we live through in lockdown, but for when we start to emerge from this crisis and attempt to shape a world that will be very different.

In my own constituency, which is just one of 73, there are wonderful examples of positive initiatives which are providing help where it is most needed.

It would be invidious, and indeed impossible in 750 words (or even 7500) to list them all but I have seen individuals sewing face masks, helping communities organise phone contact trees to check on vulnerable neighbours, circulating the details of Campbeltown-based bus company West Coast Motors, which is prepared to deliver food and other essential supplies to remote Argyll villages, and sharing a video from Midton Acrylics in Lochgilphead, which has moved from making very inventive financial tombstones (which are, and I quote, “a customised memento or gift that is intended to mark and commemorate the closing of a business deal in finance or investment banking”) to manufacturing PPE equipment.

But I have also watched on social media as old scores are settled and old feuds revived, have read in astonishment vitriolic criticisms of this newspaper – our only independence supporting media outlet – for reporting the news and I have been on the receiving end of anger and frustration (sometimes justified, of course) at being unable to get answers even though those answers simply do not exist at present.

THE positive is of course on display every minute of every day in the hospital wards of our country and in the teams building a new one from scratch in the SEC. The negative is when a former UK cabinet minister thinks it is necessary at this time to attack the naming of that hospital because it celebrates a Scottish nurse who died fighting an epidemic.

And the positive has been at work in our Parliament which, despite genuine differences about issues within the bill, came together unanimously to pass emergency legislation on Wednesday, in an effort supported by a team of officials who gave up every waking moment for a week to make sure it happened.

I could go on. Writing this on a Friday morning from home I have broken off to thank the postman (from a safe social distance) for delivering the length and breadth of a long glen. His response was simply to shrug his shoulders and say that “we have to keep going”.

And that is the basic message which we all need to adopt and build on today and for every day that we are still within this very necessary, life saving, lockdown.

Keeping going is what will in the end make all the difference, for in keeping going we acknowledge that no matter how hard things are, we know they can and will improve.

Keeping Going happens to be the title of one of Seamus Heaney’s greatest poems, which is a constant inspiration to me and which forms a counterpoint to Norman Peale’s view of the world. It was written in 1993 in the depths of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, when it seemed that death could come from anywhere.

In the poem Heaney affirmed what was best about us all was our humanity, which was born out of our earliest experiences and best expressed by simply keeping going, generation after generation, no matter the challenge.

Each of us will have our own way of keeping going, underpinned by faith or shared experience or sometimes just by sheer determination. As long was we point ourselves forward, and recognise that we need to give, and get, the best from where we find ourselves, through no fault of our own, then I am sure we will more than survive.

In fact we will, in the end, flourish again.

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