Deliberate Optimism

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This note strays a bit from my usual topics, and yet it’s still very much about health.  It seems apropos at this time of year, when we get to look forward to the return of light to talk about optimism.


Sometime, maybe around my early 20s, I found I had a choice about how I wanted to be.  Each time I reevaluate, I keep making the same choice.


I deliberately chose to be optimistic.


It goes something like this.


At some point I started noticing that there was some bad stuff going on in the world.  Not only did people sometimes do mean things to each other, but people were mean to groups that they’d labeled.  I wasn’t as aware at that time of the depth and breadth of justifying behaviors by labeling people.  Or of the tendency of narrow minded views about how people should look, act and be, to crush the beauty that could have blossomed in millions of souls.


I was mainly becoming cognizant of irreparable environmental destruction and species extinction.  And it was really getting me down.


At the same time I could see that the world was full of good.  The way that dew generously forms on trees and grass, the way that somebody will let somebody else into a busy traffic flow, or pick up something they dropped and go running after them.  The way that people from all over the country will donate their time or resources to help others in a natural disaster.  The way that when a tree falls over it becomes fertile ground that supports the life of several new trees, or that soil microorganism can break down oil spills and detoxify garbage.  And even the way that putting a hand on someone else’s body will support the production of several health promoting hormones.


The world is so unequivocally beautiful and positive.


So, I guess I got into that age old question on human nature, is it essentially bad and self-seeking, or good and generous?


But it was also a question about the nature of nature and of the Universe.  Are we moving in the direction of evolution of some kind, perhaps realizing our potential?  Or are we slowly falling deeper into chaos and disarray? 


If we were gradually getting worse and it was natural for people to be mean, that would be one possible reality.


If we were gradually getting better and it was natural for people to be kind, then that was a different reality.


The more I considered, the more I could see that there was really compelling evidence for both points of view, and that it was unlikely that I would ever possess sufficient data as a mere human being to know definitively which reality was true.


Since trying to lift the scales from my eyes wasn’t going to work, I needed a different criteria for evaluation.


So I felt what it felt like to live in the reality where people would be mean to each other more if they could get away with it, and where the juggernaut of greed and folly was unstoppable.  This caused me to feel that life was pointless, which made me sad and unmotivated.


Then I felt what I felt like to live in a reality where the default was to help each other, where good would always be more powerful than evil and where destruction was the beginning of transformation.  This was much more enjoyable and seemed to rub off on other people.


I noticed that my depressed, hopelessness of the first reality or my energetic optimism of the second reality had an effect on those around me.  I also noticed that in all ways life was a funner, brighter and more engaging experience when I opted for the optimistic reality.


In short I noticed that I could make a choice on who I would become and the effect I would have on the world around me, and one seemed distinctly more helpful than the other.


So I chose to live in a reality where, although bad stuff happens, I have the power to change it, and love is stronger than fear and indifference.


Like they said in Star Wars, “Don’t fight what you hate, help what you love.”


I think this choice has had a positive effect on my health over the years and, I believe, has helped create the world that I want to live in.  Although the news reports painful things, I also know that it’s news because it sells and it’s a deviation from the norm.  I believe the norm to be goodness, generosity, heroism and love.


As they say in my favorite Christmas movie, Love actually is all around you.


Just for fun here’s a link to my current, favorite seasonal carol:



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