I believe in optimism. Optimism is the presiding faith in the Good. It is the default setting of our nature as human beings. Our very country was founded on a set of optimistic principles: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And although we often find ourselves in death, confinement and deep despair, it is our optimism that heals us, that points to a better way and creates the possibility for happiness.
Some people confuse optimism with naiveté. You must be naive to be optimistic about how things are — look at the market, look at the war, look how people are suffering! But optimism is not a state of denial. I believe optimism is the currency of wisdom. Optimism is what set us to work to shore up the good that we may right our ships. Pessimism cannot do this. We are all going to hell in a hand basket, you say. We are in for dark times, says another. There’s no end to the trouble in sight, says a third. Life can be hard, situations can be dire, we must face the facts of our predicaments. But pessimism sheds no light, sees no beauty, and only likes the company of pessimists.
At this moment a woman is in great pain — the worst pain of her life. She may be terrified, she may be alone. She is likely screaming and praying to God for help. A pessimist would say that there is no help for it, much can go wrong, she is at great risk. But the optimist would put a hand on her, tell her that everything is okay, and would stand by her in her pain. In the end, the woman delivers a baby into the world — a new life.
I believe Americans, indeed the human race, cannot afford pessimism. If ever there was a time to be optimistic, it is now. If each of us practiced optimism, we would take our lumps, roll up our sleeves and put ourselves in service of what’s good.
And I believe the collective good has more power than proliferating evil. So when you get lost, diseased, disgusted, discouraged and dismayed, I say focus on the good. And by that simple act you will be adding to it. You will have become optimistic.
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