The world has been replete of “-isms” since the early 20th century which caused a lot of wars in their name: communism, socialism, fascism, nazism,, colonialism, imperialism, etc. Those will be with us a while and will take turns in making our lives miserable. Current adjuvant “isms” American-brand are: conservatism, liberalism, libertarianism, populism.
The others that count on a more personal and societal basis are: egoism that essentially obliterated altruism by 2013; collectivism that is slowly replacing individualism, monism taking over pluralism; isolationism which has long replaced exceptionalism and worst of all pessimism that is slowly but surely replacing optimism.
Buddha said that “fortune changes like the swish of a horse’s tail”. There is often in people to whom the worst has happened an almost transcendent freedom as they had faced the worst and survived it. “Le propre de tomber c’est d’apprendre à se relever” (the point of falling is to learn how to raise up again) the Franch say.
Practical definition: An optimist sees an opportunity in every calamity, a pessimist sees a calamity in every opportunity.
Dunkin reminds us daily: “Keep your eye upon the donut, not upon the hole.” Heaven on earth is when we choose not to focus on what is missing from our lives but are grateful for the abundance that is present. Jesus and his church tell us to be grateful and give thanks. “Gratitude is a major tenet of character“, Bill O’Reilly.
Examples and popular says abound like the famous: “Is the glass half full or half empty”. You can easily imagine the optimistic v. pessimistic point of view in the former statement. This reminds me a colleague from the University of Rotterdam, The Netherlands, who said: “There are two categories of people in this world: those who give you a solution for every problem; and those who give you a problem for every solution”.
Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass…it is about learning to dance in the rain. As classically illustrated in Singin’ in the Rain (1952 musical comedy starring Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor). The rain brings good things to life (like the GE slogan).
“When one door closes another door opens” says the optimist. Another way to put it: “A quelque chose malheur est bon.” “Every cloud has a silver lining.”
Optimism and positive outlook will affect the hypothalamus, mood regulator in the brain, and more dopamine will be secreted (the pleasure neuro-modulator). Pessimism would trigger serotonine, the depression modulator.
The true optimist develops an attitude of gratitude. Gratitude is the key to be happy in life. If we are not grateful we will not be happy, no matter how much we have, because we would still want to have what we do not have, therefore we would be in a perpetual unhappy state of want.
Who said there are no second chances? It maybe true that no one can go back and make a brand new start, but anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.
The critical yardstick for optimism is whether you take things for granted or you take them with gratitude. Gratitude is not only the greatest of all virtues, but the parent of all the others.
“The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude” Friedrich Nietzsche, German Philosopher (1844 –1900)