(This is a reprint of a blog post I wrote on July 14, 2013.)
The Encarta Dictionary defines optimism four ways:
1. tendency to expect best: the tendency to believe, expect, or hope that things will turn out well
2. confidence: the attitude of somebody who feels positive or confident
3. doctrine that our world is best: a philosophical doctrine, first proposed by Leibnitz, that ours is the best of all possible worlds
4. belief in power of good: the belief that things are continually getting better and that good will ultimately triumph over evil
Is true optimism possible today? Can one truly achieve a positive attitude when the world seems to be occupied with extreme anger, senseless violence, intense hatred, and the Kardashians? When every time you pull up Facebook or Twitter only to read posts written with seething, unverified vitriol. How can a person look at the bright side when everything seems so dark? Or does optimism require a certain happy pill or a clear case of denial? In order to answer these seemingly unanswerable questions, I would like to focus on the four different definitions by Encarta Dictionary.
Tendency to expect the best
Throughout history, people have fought for things because they hoped for a better future for themselves and their children. They demanded civil rights. They wanted the vote. They yearned for freedom from oppression.
Confident people have led revolutions. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Martin Luther King, and Gandhi all saw a need for change. They possessed the confidence to stand up against injustice and fight the good fight.
Doctrine that our world is best
This one is difficult for me. Is this world the best of all possible worlds? Or do optimistic people believe that it could be? I believe optimistic people are constantly on the prowl for viable solutions to the world’s most daunting problems.
Belief in power of good
We all know Anne Frank’s famous quote: “Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.” Even during one of history’s darkest moments, a young girl saw decency. Books, movies, and comic books have dealt with the topic of good over evil. Luke Skywalker triumphed over Darth Vader. Harry Potter destroyed Voldemort. We have cheered on Superman, Ironman, and Batman when they have conquered the villains. Who are our real life super heroes? What about the teachers who stood in the line of fire in Newtown? Or the firemen who charged back in the burning towers? Or the Navy Seals who stealthily crept into the darkness of Pakistan? Or the Texan politician who filibustered for hours in support of women’s rights? Or the teen who stands up to the bullies in the hallway? Or the volunteer who helps the homeless? Or the countless others who have hope for the future, despite all the obstacles in the way.
Optimism is not a blind or complacent Pollyannaish view of the world. It is a endless raging fight.