JEFF PEARLMAN

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The power of positivity …

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I was watching the clip of Michael Landon on the Tonight Show. During the segment, Landon praised the power of laughter and positivity—said that it was helping him survive; that he felt stronger than ever; that more than 50 percent of health was mental.

That interview took place on May 9, 1991. He died less than two months later.

You have my word here—I’m not diving into the topic for the sake of antagonism, or to try and sway one’s opinion. But I often wonder whether the ol’ “Human spirit” line is a bit overplayed, especially here in America. Heck, the phrase “Power of the human spirit” gets a whopping 28 million Google hits. But is it real? When I was a kid, I remember reading an Epcot sign that said IF YOU CAN DREAM IT, YOU CAN DO IT. Since that time, I’ve dreamed of (in no particular order): Playing quarterback for the Jets, turning invisible, flying like Superman, hooking up with Halle Berry, being able to sing like Prince, driving to California in 24 hours, running for president and winning.

I am a believer in positive thinking. I really am. It keeps other people afloat, and certainly beats the alternative. But do people who know they’ll overcome X illness actually overcome it? Is there reason to believe the guy who is steadfast in his determination not to die will, in fact, not die? Did Lance Armstrong beat cancer because he’s tough and strong-willed, or did he beat cancer because luck was on his side?

When he passed, Michael Landon was a four-pack-per-day cigarette smoker who had been abusing his body for decades. I’m not sure strong self belief overcomes that. I hope it can. But I just don’t know …