I have a theory about pessimists:
They don’t exist.
Now, don’t get me wrong; there are people who naturally rotate towards a more positive mindset in the direst of situations and others who shrug and expect the worst. To divide these people across the line of perception as being either pessimists or optimists makes things, well, easy.
It’s a mistake we as a human race have been making forever: seeing everything in black and white. People are either good or bad, strong or feeble, smart or stupid, striking or plain, old or young, positive or negative. And during surface conversations especially, we tend to describe people by dragging these attributes to one another and assuming that that is enough.
Well, it’s not. And why don’t pessimists exist?
Because to be a person who sees the world as an open-jawed creature threatening their very existence takes a great amount of the one, honey-sweet instinct that optimists have:
Society has everything backwards. It is not the mentally/emotionally stable person who has the most strength; it’s the one who is struggling to keep it together and go about their lives anyways who are the strongest. It’s not the rich who are the most blessed, or the poor that are the least fortunate, and contradictory to media portrayals, it’s not necessarily the reverse of that, either. We feel like we have it boiled down to a science, when really, every single person—every single mind—is different.
While “optimists” naturally veer towards silver linings, “pessimists” have to—or choose to (whichever you believe)—stand and wait for a storm that may or may not come, and make a choice. Stay here, where there is inevitable pain and suffering to be felt and witnessed? Or take yourself out of the game in order to avoid it all, with the cost of losing the good things, too?
Many, thankfully, decide to stay. And it takes larger capacities of hope to keep them here than their opposites.
Society has “good things” and “bad things” screwed up as well. While legends, religions, and moralistic stories preach that good always defeats evil, people are, nevertheless, constantly letting darkness stomp out sparks of wholesomeness.
We hate Sundays because the next day is Monday.
We let financial troubles break up families, even though money isn’t what defines love.
The most beautiful of people wish to look like someone else.
It’s more acceptable to talk about our weaknesses than our strengths.
Sickness makes us forget how many more days of the year we’re healthy in comparison.
As kids we want to be adults, and as adults we want to be kids.
It’s impossible not to crave what we don’t have. If we didn’t want more, seek more, believe in more, we would all be lost, unmotivated, and purposeless. However, I do believe there’s something to be said for stopping, and helping one another find a way to breathe.
I received a page-a-day calendar for Christmas. Each day I tear off the top leaf to reveal the present date and a quote. Today’s was by American writer Norman Cousins, who said:
“The problem is difficult, but we’ve got a chance and no one knows enough to be a pessimist.”
Did you hear that? We have a chance.
This happens often when I drive back to town from my parents’ house. The console is glowing, heat is slowly rising from the bottom up, and my head is quiet but my radio is on or iPod is hooked up, and a song plays. And sometimes I can’t help but steel myself against the wheel as an enormous bubble of joy bursts out of me in the form of a laugh, quite possibly the most genuine laugh I had experienced all day. And I could blame it on the clarity of the stars in the night sky, or the physical comfort of being safe and warm, or the fact that driving alone on a deserted highway feels like a secret channeling through friction from wheels to pavement. But honestly, I think it’s that realization that despite all the noise and misconstrued priorities of everyday living, there is truth. And it lives in our core. And if we choose to tune in to ourselves every once and awhile, it might become impossible to keep that foundation of joy from rising to the surface.
Like Cousins said: “No one knows enough to be a pessimist.” We live in a culture where knowing the most is valued, and while it isn’t foolish to pursue knowledge, it is unwise to forget that we will never know it all.
There is only so much we can control. And sometimes, I think, the most important aspects of life and whatever you may believe lies beyond it are the things we can’t quite grasp, because it’s bigger than us.
But this life…this life is a chance.
And that should generate enough hope to feed all of us.