Monday, February 02, 2015

Life as the Reluctant Optimist

This blog had many titles before I finally settled on The Reluctant Optimist.  Some of the titles captured important life moments or just had a quirky pun that made me seem hip.  Every few months I would put up a new title that would revolutionize my corner of the internet.  Eventually I realized that my weblog needed a lasting title, and this one just felt right.

In many ways it seems like some strange contradiction to be a reluctant optimist.  We tend to imagine that an optimist walks around with some goofy grin on their cherubic face happily ignoring the crumbling world that surrounds them.  The optimist is perceived to have their head in the clouds while their counterpart, the pessimist, always seems to be the wet blanket that ruins the party.  While I firmly abhor most every binary system on earth, I make allowance for this one.  A person is either an optimist or a pessimist.  Neither is good, and neither is bad; they just are.  The dichotomy between an optimist and a pessimist is frequently subverted by clever bastards that claim to be realists (a term which I don't understand--we are all realists--no one is pretending to see a dancing unicorn--it doesn't make them seem any smarter--just call yourself a pessimist and get over it).  You can even switch sides if you want, but you can't be in the middle because this concept is all about hope.  You either hope something will happen, or you don't.  You hope for a better world, or you don't.  You feel it in your gut, or you don't.

I am an optimist, and I hate it.

I want to be an ornery man that can grumpily turn my back on all the disappointments in my life, but I can't. A pessimist is rarely disappointed, and when they are it is because something fantastic happened!  I am tired of the disappointments that come from being an optimist, but I cannot change what I feel.

I have hope, and I hate it.  I hope my church will move out of the dark ages and recognize the value of all humans.  I hope my country will move past partisan politics and focus on improving the life of all God's creatures.  I hope this world will realize how we all need each other to survive, and we all live on the same small rock hurdling through space and time.  Even though I will certainly be disappointed by my church, my country and my fellow humans, I still believe in a bright future.

I am an optimist because I want to see the good in people even after they have shown their worst.  I am an optimist because when I hit my lowest points and want to raise my fist to the heavens to curse God, I pause in gratitude because it is a beautiful day and I feel fortunate to be alive to see it.  I am an optimist because no matter how dark the night, how deep the water, how powerful the storm, I feel a better life coming.  I suppose it really comes down to what I have that will always be stronger than life's worst trials:

I have these guys in my corner, and I wouldn't trade them for the world! (I know the picture is blurry on their faces, but I still like it, dammit)