Why I Am An Optimist

Optimism-Breeds-OptimismMy previous month of no news was certainly interesting. I’d call it informative, but the truth is I’ve enjoyed being far less informed than usual. I have no idea what’s happening in Ukraine (there were rumbles of a nuclear accident?), no clue where the fight against ebola has progressed (though I’m guessing you don’t know either as no new white people have been infected), and I know diddly squat about UK politics for the month of November – I count this as no big loss.  It’s not as if I managed to stay news-sterile for 30 days though. I read the occasional headline on reddit, and tumblr came alive with the anti-racist police (or is that anti racist-police) riots and protests that have erupted across the USA, but generally I’m out of the loop. And I feel great.

Sure – go ahead – bury your head in the sand, Andy. Cut yourself off from all the crazy that isn’t happening to you and you’ll feel fine! Well, now that you mention it, that’s a pretty sound idea. What do I gain from reading about the murder of children, violent disease, extra taxes, paedophile MPs, civilian casualties, and the Islamic State? A burning anger? Over tweaked paranoia? A general sense of dread? All of the above and more, I’d imagine.

This all weirdly coincided with a tiny life event that made me realise what it is I really want. Or at least, one thing I truly value in people. I had to genuinely ask someone to be nice to me. He was so caught up in his (admittedly humorous and expertly crafted) put-down jokes – I believe the kidz call it “banter” – that he had forgotten that a human resided at the barrel end of his quips. No, I don’t think he’s a bad person. Yes, he was nice generally and had a nice face, but I think when you have to ask for someone to be nice then you’re on the tail end of whatever it is that’s happening.

We love negativity as a species. We LOVE it. Thrive on it, crave it, create it, and despise positivity. We then wonder why so many of us end up with brains hard-wired to think the worst and to ignore the happiness. As a guy who’s a sarcastic dick at heart, I want to just throw my two pence out there and reveal my life changing choice: I am going to try my best to be nice, to reject unkindness, and aim for joy.

I only have one life. And my one drive is to make sure I am happy.

And here I reveal that – hold onto your hats – we as humans can think and believe two opposing things at the same time. I can be positive and not be in denial that bad things happen.

Exhibit A: Tom Cruise is great and I love him. Tom Cruise is also awful and I never want to be near him. Exhibit B: Alcohol makes me feel great therefore I love it. Alcohol makes me feel awful, therefore I hate its effects. Exhibit C: Nobody cares about politics. Everybody cares about policies that affect them. Exhibit D: Nobody likes taxes. Everybody likes what they pay for. I could go on.

Yes it is possible to choose the positive over the negative and not ignore things. I mean hey, most of you choose the negative over the positive and you’d never accuse yourselves of the same short-sightedness. And why on earth is it so jarring to choose to err on the positive side of things? If the two sides are equal in importance (or at least in prevalence) then why is it that I seem to suddenly be going against the grain? Am I mad? Quite possibly. But I believe I have a duty to myself to stay in the healthiest frame of mind possible. Negativity does not help me in this.

And here’s where my writing runs into a conundrumatic* wall. To continue with my train of thought will be to delve into the negative, to berate, to decry, to be negative about negativity. How do I get my vague point across without becoming preachy? Without being just another whiny internet commentator mewling “Why can’t everyone just be nice?”. I think the answer is simply to inform you of my decision, and leave you to think what you want. My guess is that you dislike being told what to do as much as I do anyway.

Perhaps we’re all just different. Shocker, I know. But if I make one person feel a smidge better by not telling them why the thing they like shouldn’t really be liked, then I think this makes me happier than informing the plebeian masses on how right I am about everything. After all, you’re probably tired of hearing that from me by now.

So that’s it. I’ve been a negative person for too long. Perhaps this is my official conversion to optimism or something, and I have no intention of regressing. I now value kindness as the most valuable human trait, not excellent sarcasm. I’ll read about things that make me happy, over things that make me sad. And while I’ll keep a vague eye out over what’s going on – I want to know what happens with 2015s UK elections and 2016’s US elections (come on Elizabeth Warren!) – and I’m not going to avoid all news sources like I did, I think now I’ll just not be a slave to them.

Yes, negative cynicism can be funny. But positivity makes me happy. I know which side I’ll choose.

 

*Yes, that’s a new word. You may use it.