Social Optimism. . .
Most of us have been taught to be profoundly optimistic in life. It has been taught that our manner should be upbeat, our spirits high and our greetings enthusiastic. Expecting things to go well is presented as the best way to ensure that they will in fact do so.
But such optimism can been a curse. Yes you read that correctly – when sunny expectations meet with an obstacle, they often to flip to its opposites, anger, depression or bitterness. Why? Because on some level we feel betrayed. Our smiles did not improve the moment. Our anger did not dissipate. Or our efforts seemed wasted. Betrayed hope places us at greater risk of nit-picking, sulking, irritation and rage. What these moments have in common is insulted optimism: they are the legacy of a feeling that things were meant to be so much better than they have turned out.
We are shocked and/or offended by the stupidity of others, the failings of institutions, the greed and selfishness that seem to take over everything and everyone. We become outraged by the immemorial condition of the world and our own moments consumed by a disappointment of what began as the sweetest of outlooks.
Oddly a determinedly jolly and upbeat outlook can in fact cut us off from communion with those around us, for our most profound reality is that we all have deep zones of worry, regret, inadequacy and shame that we have been collectively instructed to dismiss. It is the confession of shared difficulties that allows us to get genuinely close to another person – to understand the collective ground we all share.
The moments of understanding and compassion that comes when we agree that all of us struggle with something and we should not be ashamed – we should if anything come together for that very reason and let each other know that when our moments of despair and anger hit we are not alone but united through our suffering and improved through our efforts not of perfection but of understanding.
Peace and Love, Jim