(The following is reprinted from a post that first appeared in the original Manofesto over on MySpace on 9/20/08)
* Pragmatism is defined as “a practical approach to problems and affairs”.
* A realist has “concern for fact or reality and rejection of the impractical and visionary”.
* Optimism is the “inclination to put the most favorable construction upon actions and events or to anticipate the best possible outcome”.
* Pessimism is the “inclination to emphasize adverse aspects, conditions, and possibilities or to expect the worst possible outcome”.
* Negativity is “marked by denial, prohibition, or refusal, marked by absence, withholding, or removal of something positive”.
I give these definitions as a foundation for this particular invective because I reject each and every one of them. Each of these concepts is fundamentally flawed. By the end of today’s experience I hope to have the outline of a new philosophical approach, one that I can live with, one I will egotistically refer to as Samism.
Pragmatism offers the “practical approach”, which is fine for a lot of life’s issues. It is certainly better than sticking one’s head in the sand and ignoring a problem. However, it leaves no room for faith. It leaves no room for whimsy. It leaves no room for overcoming obstacles and achieving the impossible. It leaves no room for hope. I don’t like that at all. It may be the intelligent approach to life, but it’s also a rather somber and gloomy point of view.
I’ve always said I wasn’t a pessimist nor an optimist, but a realist. However, I am officially changing that attitude. Why? Well, look at the definition. A realist has no vision, which means they have no imagination. That too is a rather depressing outlook on life.
Optimism and pessimism are polar opposites of each other, and both are an illusion. One anticipates the worst possible outcome; one anticipates the best possible outcome. There are a couple different difficulties there. First of all, either way there is anticipation. I understand it is difficult not to anticipate, to think ahead, to worry and wonder how something is going to turn out. But it’s a losing proposition. If one always anticipates the worst possible outcome all the joy and happiness of life just dissipates into thin air. If one anticipates the best possible outcome they are setting themselves up for heartache and disappointment when things don’t go well. Secondly, anyone over the age of 5 has likely figured out, to varying degrees of awareness, that the upshot of a situation is most often neither the worst case scenario nor the best, most perfect solution. Life just doesn’t work that way. Does the absolute worst possible thing sometimes happen? Sure. Does something good, even better than the best thing one had hoped for, sometimes occur? Absolutely. But life usually isn’t that simple. The concepts of optimism and pessimism would dictate that, on a scale of 1 to 100, the result will always be either 1 or 100. An intelligent being with any type of life experience knows that is nearly impossible. It is extremely rare for one extreme or the other to transpire.
Negativity I suppose could be lumped in with pessimism. But I examine it separately for this reason…it is more active than pessimism. Pessimism is an attitude. Negativity integrates effort. By definition it requires one to “deny, prohibit, refuse, withhold, and remove”. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a lot of work to me, and I’m far too languid for such a task.
All this deep introspection comes as a result of becoming fed up with negative, pessimistic, unimaginative, unenthusiastic, downtrodden forces within my orbit. I’m just tired of it. I am a person with a physical disability. I was raised with love and kindness, proper discipline, and a certain level of support, though I am at a point in my life where I realize I wasn’t challenged and uplifted as much as might have been possible. I am coming to grips with the fact that I have been influenced by dark forces that have, to a degree, shaped my life in a way that has limited me and had a negative impact on my emotional health and social productivity. Are some of these issues a result of my own shortcomings, mistakes, and attitudes? There’s no doubt about that. But it saddens me when I realize just how low the expectations of others are and continue to be about the possibilities not only of my life, but of life in general. When I look back I can see I was really only encouraged in the area of academia. Thankfully I was always an inquisitive, creative, nerdy kid who enjoyed school and learned things with relative ease. I was always expected to do well in school, get good grades, make the honor roll, etc. And that I did. As a result, I’m perfectly content with sedentary pursuits such as reading, being online, listening to music, and watching television. My intellectual curiosity has never been absent, and for that I am thankful. It is no one’s fault but my own that I have not used these skills and aptitudes to their maximum potential. That being said though, it must also be stated that phrases like “the shape you’re in” and “it’s all work” permeate my environment. It’s been pounded into my skull over and over and over again that I have “two strikes” against me. I suppose in a way this was done as a way to protect me from harsh disappointment and rejection and to make sure I understood clearly the challenges I would face. While I appreciate the shelter and the love with which it was undoubtedly intended, I am only now beginning to fully grasp, too late I suspect, the consequences of such a guarded and trepidatious path.
But I don’t want to make this all about me. I know there are many others that have been held down in one way or another for various reasons by well meaning people or possibly by not so well meaning people who knew full well what they were doing and had selfish reasons for doing it. Most of us are products of our environment, and whether it’s an individual, a neighborhood, a family, or a town full of the oppressed and demoralized, negativity breeds negativity and vice versa. So, what to do?
I wish I had all the answers, but I don’t. I’m still trying to figure it out myself. However, I suppose a good way to begin is to train our mind, and for the purposes of the present discourse we must start with discarding all the old definitions I previously mentioned. Don’t be a pragmatist…it forces you to crush dreams and have no faith. Don’t be a realist…it eliminates vision. Don’t be an optimist…you will be disappointed often. Don’t be a pessimist…it destroys hope. Don’t engage in negativity…it uses far too much unconstructive energy. Be a Samist. The question is, what the heck is that? Well…..
Samism addresses problems, issues, and concerns head on in an intelligent manner. Samism has vision but engages that vision with reason and common sense. Samism recognizes that having expectations is unavoidable but seeks to employ critical thinking to temper such expectations so they do not lean to one extreme or another. Samism is open minded enough to welcome possibilities. Samism has faith in an omnipotent and just God that allows us the free will to screw up, grants us grace when we do fall short, and desires a relationship with us so we can learn better each day how to get it right. Samism believes in dreams but doesn’t allow one to be crushed by their weight.
This is a work in progress and the final working definition will most assuredly evolve. I just know that changing one’s own mindset is a jumping off point for changing one’s life, which is a jumping off point for changing the lives of others and the world around you.
- 4 Ways to Overcome an Addiction to Pessimism (money.usnews.com)
- How to become an optimist (and how to use pessimism to your advantage) (17000days.wordpress.com)
- Poll: The strong grip of pessimism (politico.com)
- Negative People, and Their Thoughts (socyberty.com)
- Pessimistic dogs have more separation anxiety (msnbc.msn.com)