Sometimes I need to get things off my chest and this is one of those days! I am an unashamed optimist. That’s how I see myself, I had an interesting and spirited discussion in the pub recently with a friend of mine, who stated that optimism is a dangerous indulgence which should be actively discouraged. He believes it plays a large part (if not being actually to blame) for most of the world ills. He has come to the conclusion that looking on the bright side and seeing the positive prevents us from seeing how bad things really are and taking appropriate action, and that’s why the world is in the state it is. This is an interesting concept to me, as one who had always tried to see the upside where ever possible. I found it fascinating and a little scary, but in a good way! He was basically saying the same thing as a poster I saw in one of those tourist shops that said… ‘If you can keep your head when all about are losing theirs – you obviously don’t understand the problem!’ Pessimists (or realists, depending on your point of view) work on the principal that they do understand the problem. Maybe I don’t understand the problem? Could that be true? Actually I don’t think so. It’s necessary to have a healthy charge of optimism; it helps with your energy, your vision, your creativity and your self esteem.
Humans on the whole (I have read) are hard wired to be ultimately basically optimistic. It’s how we survive! We believe in better! But for a reason; we believe in ourselves and our ability to change things, and that ability to adapt has been the key to our survival. To see beyond the immediate apparent gloom to a better time keeps us motivated to go on, without it we simply couldn’t survive. Of course we don’t always get it right. Often we get it wrong but we’re constantly questioning and that gives me hope.
Now I’m perfectly aware that the other thing that is in the core nature of humans is to look after themselves first and foremost. To build a secure and comfortable place to live is a major drive and so when people have the opportunity to earn or acquire money at the expense of others that instinct can take over, until from the outside it looks a lot like greed. Then it’s every man for himself and that’s where the problems start. We’re often torn between our desire to be good, nice, decent people and to look after our own best interests and those of our family.
The constant flow of negative news and of disaster predications keep us scared, defensive and fatalist. It undermines our determination and our sense of power over our own lives. We start to pull up our drawbridges and build walls rather than be inclusive and to take rather than give. We get scared, and when we’re scared we see danger everywhere which means we’re more likely to attack first. Of course it’s important to keep an eye on the world, but actually it’s more important to keep an eye on ourselves and how that information is affecting us and our communities. Of course, one has to take care of business, pay bills, do tax returns and get the car fixed. But if we could all just determinedly build the world we want to live in from our own back yards, in spite of what we’re repeated told about the world outside, how much difference would that make?
I’ll leave you with a nice story. A little while ago (a couple of months I think) an old chap was walking outside past the gallery. The door was open and my son and I could hear him making really strange noises. We both looked at each other and questioned if he was OK. My son went to the door to check on him further but by the time he’d got to the door the old man had collapsed on the kerb side outside ASK pizza. It was raining heavily but within minutes of him falling he was surrounded and protected by strangers. The staff at ASK came out, a woman jumped off a bus, ambulances were called, we took out blankets and a pillow and two business men who happened to be passing, without saying a word, stopped and held their umbrellas over him until the ambulance arrived. People stood around him like guardians, no-one questioned it, no-one thought twice, they just did what was right and it was an amazing sight!
People are basically good and there’s enough for everyone is my maxim for life! Look for it and you’ll see it everywhere, really you will. And guess what? In spite of the terrible weather forecast, the sun is still shining! Still might take my umbrella though, you never know when it might come in useful!