Saturday, June 19, 2010

A world in flux

People tend to fall into three categories. We are either optimists, pessimists, or we fall into a group somewhere in between those two.

We are told to be optimists because those types of people generally are happier. They are the ones who look at a partially filled glass of water and prefer to think of it as being half full.

For people having that type of attitude, they should feel grateful. It is not always easy to look on the bright side of situations.

At one point, I considered myself an optimist. Despite all that raged around me, I did a pretty good job of maintaining my optimism. I was younger when I went through this phase, but as I have gotten older, this state of mind has changed.

Pessimism is the opposite of optimism. These unfortunate folks tend to expect the worst or look at life in a hardened, cynical way. Pessimism touches all ages. Just because a person is young does not necessarily mean they will be optimistic about life. It is too easy for people of all ages to look at life's events and let the negativity overwhelm them.

I have talked to people who openly consider themselves to be pessimists. In most cases, they believe their viewpoint is the most honest way of looking at life. Too often, these people have said to me that optimists live their lives with their head stuck in the sand.

A few of the pessimists have told me that they envy the optimists. They genuinely wish they could look at life as their opposites do. They just can not seem to do it.

Of course, there is also that third group of people I mentioned: the people who fall somewhere in between optimism and pessimism.

I believe that is the category in which most people can be classified, including myself. I am generalizing here, but I believe the optimism that most enjoy in their youth is basically naiveté. We begin our lives that way and stay in that state until we begin experiencing the ups and downs of life.

Then, at some point, it is almost as if a veil has been removed from in front of our eyes. We begin to see the complexity of life. We see the justices and injustices, and we often wonder how other people can not understand issues that are seemingly so simple.

At this point, it is very difficult because we are fighting hard to maintain our optimism. However, that silent voice inside us all begins to point us in another direction. It does not point us toward pessimism, but people often mistakenly go down that path.

The still, silent voice educates us. It tells us that optimism is nice, but there are simply too many issues and events in which we can not see the bright side of life.

When actor Gary Coleman recently died, pictures of him laying on his deathbed were taken and sold for thousands of dollars to the tabloids. It is hard to look at the exploitation of a dying man and see optimism in that.

As Bob Dylan once sang: "Money doesn't talk, it swears." That is a pessimistic comment, but it sure applies to the Coleman situation.

Additionally, it is difficult to look at the BP oil spill and not feel pessimistic. A huge corporation cut corners on safety, and the result has been chaos. However, all is not lost.

BP is actually going to salvage as much of the spilled oil as possible and sell it.

A profit off a disaster? That's life.


Tenn Irish said...

A great example of an optimist who had no reason to be optimistic was U.S. Grant. He had won at Forts Henry and Donelson due more to the incompetence of his opposing generals and their inability to come to agreement on a plan and carry out that plan. But at Shiloh, they surprised him while he was off having breakfast on a steamer, miles from the scene. His troops were nearly pushed into the river, yet he never lost his optimistic belief that his army would win that fight. The fact that he had even put them where he did, with little or no training and without digging in, shows perhaps an overconfidence that truly staggers us today. But the man got results, when others would turn their armies around and head for home, if whipped or even just blocked by strong resistance. His memoirs, rumored to have been ghost-written by Mark Twain, are modern in style, clear and crisp, and well worth the read.

Mister Jimmy said...

Optimism vs pessimism is the world's way of seeing life. It is a Hobson's choice. There is another way, a better way, and you know what it is.

Anonymous said...

I think I fall into the category of what the late George Carlin called the "disappointed idealist."