June 7       

Today's quotation:

I am fundamentally an optimist.  Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say.  Part of being optimistic is keeping one's head pointed toward the sun, one's feet moving forward.  There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair.

Nelson Mandela

Today's Meditation:

It's funny to see just how many people have the image of an optimist as a person who's constantly (even annoyingly) cheerful, someone who never has a down moment, someone who's constantly spouting upbeat phrases to cheer other people up.  In my own experience, being an optimist is nothing like that.  You don't even need to smile a lot to be an optimist, if that's not being true to your personality.  An optimist is simply a person who, in her or his heart, knows that things will eventually work out for the best, no matter how bleak things look now.

When I hear people argue against being optimistic, I usually hear "But look at how terrible things are for me.  I have no reason to be optimistic."  And I always want to ask, "Yeah, but what about tomorrow, or next week?"  What these people don't realize is that by staying focused on the negative things that are going on, they're often keeping themselves from seeing potential good, or even greater good.  And because they see only bad, they've conditioned themselves to expect only bad.

An optimist, though, can see something terrible and accept it as being terrible-- but then try to find ways to create a greater good from the situation.  A woman whose husband just left her may be struggling to support the kids right now, but she doesn't have to deal with abuse any more, and in her current challenges she's going to uncover a great deal of strength and resilience that she never knew she had.  And while the road may be difficult, the destination is potentially more beautiful than any destination would have been otherwise.

Bad things happen, to good people and to bad.  People get hurt, things get destroyed.  But things that happen are simply that-- things that happen, and it's up to us to turn our adversity into blessings, to turn what seems to be a hopeless situation into a situation rife with possibility and potential.  That's the job of an optimist, whether she or he is walking around smiling all the time or not.  Being an optimist is looking for the beauty when others see only ugliness; looking for hope when others see only despair; looking for love when others see only anger and hatred; looking for peace when others see only strife.

Questions to consider:

Are you an optimist?  What to you are the main qualities of an optimist?

Why do so many people have such a warped idea of what it means to be to be an optimist?

What are some of the effects of being a pessimist?

For further thought:

I have become my own version of an optimist.  If I can't make it through one door, I'll go through another door-- or I'll make a door.  Something terrific will come no matter how dark the present.

Rabindranath Tagore

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