August 3
Both optimists and pessimists
contribute to our society.
The optimist invents the airplane
and the pessimist the parachute.

Gil Stern


Today's Meditation:

Gil is simply telling us that we all have our contributions to make to society and to our fellow human beings and their lives--and each of us is going to be able to contribute on our own terms, in our own ways.  And just because we don't see the world in the same ways, we don't have to feel that the other is necessarily wrong.  In fact, there are so many different ways of seeing anything that it really is difficult to say that others are wrong when they don't agree with us. 

Personally, I have a hard time being around extremely pessimistic people, for their attitude often brings me down and makes me feel pretty lousy--but that's only when I let it do so.  If I accept these people's perspectives for what they are, then I can accept what they say and how they say it without getting it into my mind that they're wrong.  Because if all of us looked only at the positive sides of life, after all, who would have invented airbags or life vests or any of the many devices that help to protect us when things go wrong?

True pessimism can be harmful, both to the person who is pessimistic and to those who share their worlds with them.  Looking at the world and seeing only impossibility and bad things can be very detrimental, and can also keep people from reaching any of their potential.  But I don't think that's the type of person Gil's talking about here--after all, the profoundly pessimistic person never would invent anything, because he or she would be able to see only the possibility of failure, so what would be the use?

I don't see myself as either an optimist or a pessimist.  My main goal is to see things as they are and accept that, without the value judgments.  And I know that so many things happen without us foreseeing them that it really makes little sense to try to predict what the future will hold.  But I am glad that many people think of possible problems in different situations and create ways that can keep me safe when I need them.

Questions to consider:

Why do we so often want to "fix" the way that pessimistic people tend to see the world?  Have others tried to "fix" the ways that you see things?

Think of some things that would be different if we all saw the world in the same ways.  What contributions would be lost?

Why is it important to accept the ways that other people deal with reality as they know it?

For further thought:

In the long run the pessimist may be proved right,
but the optimist has a better time on the trip.

Daniel L. Reardon

See more about optimism here and pessimism here.


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