Thought for the day: for it to exist, optimism requires pessimism. The two states represent converse, potential attitudes to any given situation. To be optimistic, or pessimistic, is to choose your attitude, and this personal choice implies that you are aware of the range of alternative attitudes. Thus, optimism is a comparative term, summed up perfectly by the classic ‘glass half-full or half-empty’ conundrum. The point is that you can choose how you perceive each situation.
Otherwise it would just be a more generic pleasurable state such as ‘happiness’ or ‘contentment’. And I would argue that optimism is not purely pleasurable. It takes conscious endeavour to cultivate an optimistic outlook, and requires you to fire-fight ongoing niggling pessimistic doubts.
A typical dictionary definition for optimism is something along the lines of:
‘A tendency to expect the best possible outcome or dwell on the most hopeful aspects of a situation.’
Implicit within this definition is an awareness of the worst outcomes and most hopeless aspects of a situation, but a conscious decision to ignore them. Therefore, by its nature, optimism is grounded in a default negativity – strange, huh?
Anyway, I am thinking a lot at the moment about the pros and cons of optimism and the power of positive thinking, so no doubt more ramblings on this in future posts. But, for now, I shall exploit an extremely tenuous link to these thoughts by including some photos below of a beautiful evening walk through the English countryside that I took the other day. The link comes from the fact that the walk was a deliberate attempt to banish the blues after my Devon weekend. For all their joy and happiness, weddings are never easy following a break-up, as I have learnt over the years – indeed I have a brilliant scar on my leg from a previous ill-fated post-break-up wedding where, after a few too many champagnes and a few too few canapes, I walked (or rather staggered) off into a field to ‘be alone’ and promptly walked into a barbed wire fence and ripped both dress and skin – oops. Anyway, I’m pleased to say I made it through my cousin’s wedding with both dress and flesh intact, although couldn’t completely banish the internal etch of barbed thoughts. So, arriving back in the midlands, rather than wallow in doomful thoughts that involved Bridget Jones type images of my future cat-filled spinsterhood, I decided to embrace optimism, ramp up Biffy Clyro on my ipod and stride out to enjoy a truly beautiful evening. On this occasion it was definitely a good choice. The evening responded with a truly splendid display of things to be cheerful about…
With sights like these, it’s hard to stay blue for long, especially with the awesome Biffy Clyro growling down your ear (although I’m sure the alternative tranquility of evening birdsong would do the trick, too).