Optimism

Beware of the Dog

Pessimism

I continue to be an optimist. I continue to believe that human nature is fundamentally good, regardless of evidence to the contrary. After all, judgment and interpretation are matters of perspective: time and distance are likely to increase my understanding. “Ah, that’s what was going on!” “Ah, those are the consequences of my action or inaction!”

When we look lovingly into each other’s eyes we see in them incredible beauty and our hearts skip a beat. We feel profoundly lucky to have found each other. From the perspective of other animals with different eyes, however, or biologists with sophisticated microscopes, or extraterrestrial beings with different optical and sensory equipment altogether, we may look like hairy monsters with bugs crawling all over us, especially menacing to those closest to us! It is all relative and all true, depending on where and how and who we are, and where we are standing.

Looking back on these years from the future, what will the good intention in all of this current turmoil turn out to have been? Only through hindsight and perspective will we know the rest of the story, and even then a broader understanding might continue to elude us.

We can only act now with the tools we have and the best intention at our disposal. As Maya Angelou is alleged to have said, we have permission to forgive ourselves for not knowing what we didn’t know before we knew it.

We can lighten up on ourselves. We can hold to an internal standard of achievement regardless of the choices others are making. We can hold others and ourselves accountable from our present vantage point, understanding that our knowledge is limited.

When we witness disturbing events we can act to make a difference where and how we are, understanding that those events exist to offer us choice and free will. We get to find out who we are. Lastly, we can come to trust in our own and others’ fundamental good intention, even if what we see right now is unmitigated horror, and even if only the passage of time and a broader perspective can make sense of it all. Our theater, our choice.

I think of the universe as conscious, alive, and collaborative. In my worldview both friends and foes are allies at the deepest levels of awareness to show us not only who they are, but also to show us who we are. When they show us who they are we should believe them and act accordingly. In like manner, when we show them who we are, we should believe ourselves and also believe in ourselves.

In 2000 I wrote that the centerpiece of optimism for me is the recognition that specific events – good, bad, even ugly – provide opportunities for choice and individual action. I concluded that at the deepest levels of our shared humanity, horror and discomfort serve our eventual fulfillment just as much as joy and abundance. I still believe this to be true, just as I believe that bad behavior is the result of distorted, suppressed and repressed good intention gone awry. Understood properly, we have the potential and the mastery to turn negative things around and to reflect the better aspects of ourselves to each other.

So for me there is room for optimism, even now. I intend to find that room and live in it.

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