The State of Optimism
Follow Paths of Consciousness, Conscience & Creativity
What a time to speak of optimism, when half a nation is in shock and disbelief about choices made by the other half, while this other half is celebrating the possibility of “real change” based on policies and beliefs unacceptable and frightening to a large portion of the population. On one side, optimism crushed and, on the other hand, optimism restored; the gulf seems so wide that one wonders what healing and reuniting forces will be able to bridge this divide.
The media, with its obvious conflict of interests, is caught between its need to report honestly and objectively and the financial benefits of attracting large audiences by offering content focused on whatever it finds to be the “hot topic” of the day. Whether on television or the Internet, media bias is evident with its incomplete and inaccurate reporting and altering of the facts of current events.
Of course, the larger issues loom with their handmaidens of anxiety and fear, including climate change, endless conflicts between factions and nations bordering on the possibility of larger expanding wars, incalculable damage to the earth with its species that hold unknown repercussions, and so much more.
There are several definitions of the word “optimism”. One simple Merriam-Webster version is, “a feeling or belief that good things will happen in the future.” The word “trust” comes to mind in working to bring about the “good” that we envision. In the current environment, trust is surely hard to come by. We don’t need polls for confirmation. The political candidates, the media, government, the future, are all inhabitants of the toxic atmosphere of distrust.
There is the belief that, in the end, it is better to be positive than negative—while not ignoring the negative—and optimistic rather than pessimistic or nihilistic. Where can we find a foothold, a solid grounding for a true optimism beyond the opposites of optimism and nihilism? If we say we are optimistic, is our attitude supported by the shallow roots of intellectual argument alone? Is our position enough to convince and fortify ourselves against the opposite arguments ready to undermine?
If we are not optimistic, can we make ourselves optimistic? What will that take? Do we forcefully repress negative thoughts, hold our breath, scrunch up our bodies and armor ourselves against our own thoughts in the determination to be positive? For that matter, can we make ourselves be truly loving, compassionate, peaceful or virtuous through the efforts of our own will? In this environment, where is the simple optimism that finds its truth affirmed wherever it looks?
The answer, strangely enough, is simplicity beyond complexity. Pointers to its truth are everywhere, waiting to be discovered, recognized and acknowledged. This optimism that we search and yearn for, this optimism must not be subject to the changing scene of human existence. If true, it must be capable of withstanding the crises and disappointments of our journey on this planet. We must discover it in the realm of the unchanging.
Our own feelings of gratitude and awe reveal themselves in our own responses to the mind-boggling intelligence, elegance and beauty before us. And, in our response, is there not within us also hidden a shy optimism that such a source could only be good in its very essence? Of course, the mind and heart are ready with questions and foregone conclusions about the unutterable horrors that we visit on ourselves, but gratitude and awe somehow remain undiminished, spontaneous responses throughout our history.
What of the creative process itself, of the joy and fulfillment in authentically expressing ourselves, seeing change everywhere subject to an invisible imperative of unfolding consciousness and conscience? We have a timeless and irrepressible urge to create, to grow in understanding, to better the whole, and to transfer our knowledge and vision from one generation to the next. Surely these are based on an optimism and trust in the continuity of what is good, wise and beautiful in our human experience.
Is there optimism in the evolutionary process itself? From our point of view as human beings, evolution is not a gentle and considerate taskmaster. It has been well described by Dr. Ted Chu, a transhumanist, as “creative destruction”. He defines this as wiping out large populations which no longer conform to the evolutionary agenda and favoring smaller groups which have those qualities necessary for the flowering of the next stage of the ongoing universal “drama”. Clearly, consciousness, conscience, the ability to see past mistakes and choose different patterns of behavior and thinking are enormous positive developments and crucial to our survival. Nevertheless, there are no guarantees that we will marshal and focus these new abilities in time to prevent our own destruction.
In the face of huge complex interwoven challenges of our time, where is optimism to be found? Somehow a growing number of people come together in conferences to address these issues, write books, offer imaginative scientific solutions and form many new organizations to face our problems head on. Something is working within them—something drives them forward—despite the fact that many present in these activist groups acknowledge that there is no guarantee of success in meeting our challenges. Yet, they don’t stop. What is driving them?
We do not need to become optimistic. While it helps to gather together to remind each other of the need for a positive view and not to give up our cherished visions, we do not need to search for reasons for optimism; it is present whenever and wherever we are. It is especially there in the silence when our habitual thinking comes to a halt that we can experience a startling insight: We are unconditionally “optimistic” by the fact of what we are. It is in our very nature. It is a quality of our essence.
Let us redefine “optimism” as a state of realization that our true nature is essentially and unconditionally loving, compassionate and creative. Let us trust that it has the wisdom to deal with any situation in a creative and beneficial way. When we are present and conscious, we are optimism itself.
Ron Friedman, MD, is a pioneer, author and teacher in the field of collective evolutionary consciousness and the co-founder of Vistar Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to consciousness, creativity and culture. Ron and Victoria Friedman reside in Stamford and developed the evolutionary Vistar Method. Connect at VistarFoundation.org.Edit ModuleShow Tags