Is looking for optimism in a pessimistic world a futile endeavor?
Carl Sandburg, the poet, could have been talking about 2012 when he said, “In these times you have to be an optimist to open your eyes when you awake in the morning.”
A review of the events of 2012 is enough to discourage even the Dalai Lama. This last year had more than its share of disasters, those inflicted naturally like earthquakes and tsunamis; tornadoes and volcanoes and those self-inflicted like train crashes and ships sinking; drone killings and suicide bombings.
The year seemed to “leap” between extremes. We witnessed the sublime, from the discovery of the “God” particle (the Higgs boson) and “Curiosity’s” ongoing successful Mars mission, to the ridiculous, like Pussy Riot and Snooki; Gangnam and Gaga.
How to make sense of it all?
Last year’s column here was a tongue-in-cheek piece about the “Top twenty-five lies of 2011” that included such nuggets as:
- Obama manages to stem the rise of the oceans
- Government spending hits an all time low. Politicians take a 10% pay cut.
- The Arab Spring proves to be a harbinger of democracy.
Unfortunately the same lies of 2012 roll over into 2013, this time without the same flippancy.
Some have breathed a sigh of relief that the “end of the world as we know it” predicted by the Mayan calendar has passed and we are all still here. They fail to account for the predictions of the Book of Revelations that predicts the winter solstice as the beginning of seven years of tribulations culminating in the final battle between good and evil, Armageddon.
Yet the world goes on. We still fall in love. Children are born. There are vacations to the mountains and the seashores. There are sunny days with misty rains and winter wonderlands of snow. There is music and movies and marshmallows.
And there is tragedy. There are Benghazi attacks and Newtown shootings. There are Supreme Court decisions and reelections. There is massive federal debt and political deadlock. There is the Israel/Arab conflict and a nuclear Iran.
We are confused and frightened. We are angry and frustrated. We are sick at heart but we refuse to become discouraged.
Winston Churchill once said, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
Just like Mr. Magoo, who, blind as he is, always seems to be able to avoid disaster, we go on.
Like that Cockeyed Optimist from South Pacific, immature and incurably green (I paraphrase) who hears the human race is fallin' on its face and hasn't very far to go, we are not very smart and we’re stuck like dopes with a thing called hope and we can't get it out of our hearts.
Walter Winchell, the radio personality, expressed optimism this way, “An optimist is someone who gets treed by a lion but enjoys the scenery.”
Happy New Year! Enjoy the scenery.
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