Life is Good Meets The Man in Black


I’m not sure New Year’s resolutions are helpful, but I’ve made one that has to do with clothing. I own a Life is Good® shirt I received as a gift some years ago. The shirt is casual stylish: khaki-green, a lone button a different color than the others, and this cool vertical stitching that if you get close enough (you won’t) reads “Do what you like. Like what you do.®

I seem to get compliments when I wear the shirt, yet I don’t often put it on. I don’t think it fits me well. It’s big everywhere and long. Not a shirt you would ever tuck in. I’m usually comfortable in more fitted clothing. Then there’s the registered trademark about life being good. That’s a fine brand message of positivity, but it feels incomplete to me and at the same time too definitive.

Life is Good website talks about how their brand stands for optimism:

“Optimism isn’t irrational cheerfulness, and it’s not blind positivity. It’s a powerful approach to accomplishing goals and living a fulfilling life. By acknowledging obstacles and opportunities—but focusing on the opportunities—optimism enables us to explore the world with open arms and an eye toward solutions and growth. It also makes life a hell of a lot more fun.”

Facing the world with open arms is great advice. What also sounds good: Optimism = More Fun! And who doesn’t want a powerful approach to living a fulfilling life? So kudos to Life is Good for spreading optimistic vibes.

I just wish optimism were as simple as making a choice to be optimistic, or making a simple either/or decision to focus on opportunities instead of getting bogged down by obstacles. Like a switch you can just turn on and suddenly you feel optimistic. I know some people groping in the dark just praying to their hands find that switch.

Genetics and brain chemistry, life experiences and situations—these factors can complicate one’s state of mind. Ask the poverty-stricken, the sick, the grieving, the depressed, the anxious, the marginalized, the unfortunate, the rejected—ask them if “life is good.”

I tense up when people say things like life is good, or all is good, or other positive platitudes. I shouldn’t respond that way. Because life is good, and I’m lucky to have a life. Also, I can personally attest: optimism is more fun than its opposite. But I need more acknowledgment that life can be both good and bad. Give me the marketing statement that accounts for this reality and I will buy your shirts.

For every Life is Good shirt we need a Man in Black shirt. Johnny Cash was the Man in Black. He always wore black.

I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down
Living in the hopeless, hungry side of town
I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime
But is there because he’s a victim of the time

. . .

I wear it for the sick and lonely old
For the reckless ones whose bad trip left them cold

. . .

Ah, I’d love to wear a rainbow every day
And tell the world that everything’s okay
But I’ll try to carry off a little darkness on my back
Until things are brighter, I’m the Man In Black

Johnny Cash

We all instinctively understand the great Yin and Yang balancing act between opposing forces. We know neither light nor dark can exist without the other. But there are no shirt brands that have gotten this concept right. I can’t find anything no matter where I look.

That’s why I’m taking my Life is Good shirt to a tailor. It’s my New Year’s resolution. I’ll ask the tailor to cut out the entire back of the shirt and replace it with black fabric. Same linen weave as the front. I’ll own a custom, two-sided shirt, representing life is good and life is bad. That’s not being pessimistic, it’s being realistic. I’ll be the life of the party, too. How can you not ask about such a shirt? I’ll be able to engage in some serious party talk. I plan to wear my new shirt often and wear it well, and rake in compliments.

By David Klein

David Klein

Published novelist, creative writer, journalist, avid reader, discriminating screen watcher.


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