The Necessary Negativity in Optimism · 5:27am
[I wanted to write something non-fictional, so I did:]
At a time when I was expressing my worries over my college GPA, a friend of mine said that I was looking at my assessment too critically. I argued that it would be very difficult for me to get a job with my GPA and he asserted that it was not as hard as I was making it out to be. Now my friend is employed and has been so happily for some time. We had this discussion before, and the only defense I could argue for my reasoning at that time was "Well, other people tell me differently;" however, this fails to meet my standards of reasonability. If I forsake my own experiences as good representations of truth, then I will certainly reject other's experiences. How much more therefore must I reject that claim on pain of unreasonability when there are contrary experiences of the same occurrence.
For this reason, I have spent a good bit of time thinking about this matter, endeavoring to find the truth of it. In the end however, there is no metaphysical proof that is apparent to me that evinces the truth of this matter. I am left then to physical philosophy (which I do not deal in) and ethical philosophy. While the latter usually provokes thoughts of determining morality, more generally it is the branch of philosophy dealing with how one should conduct oneself based on their logical findings.
Now for some time now I have called myself an optimist. I like to believe that I can focus on the good and ignore the bad so that I will attain a better state of happiness even in the most adverse situations from joy in ill circumstances. When now joy in ill circumstances is perseverance, and perseverance in ill circumstances leads to good circumstances. When joy and good circumstances are combined, happiness is produced. And when perseverance and good circumstances coexist, success is produced. And when success is produced, the betterment of the person and perhaps the world comes about. Ultimately, and by definition, optimism, I believe, is the hope that this betterment of person and society will one day reach completion, which is perfection, or the certainly that ill circumstances will no longer come about. This is the way I like to look at the world.
Thus, having recently heard several times of people talking about “the power of negative thinking,” I immediately dismissed those people as pessimists. However, when I consider my worldview, I begin to see flaws in the wording. Yet in the wording, there is meaning (for words are the means to meaning), and meaning is the conveyance of truth. Through this, I am brought to “perseverance.” When I attempt to discern the nature of perseverance, I find that is connotation often has a deceiving likeness. Perseverance almost seems to imply waiting out the storm, so to speak, hoping (expecting/waiting) for circumstances to better themselves. However, the issue that follows here is a matter of causality. If one desires circumstances to change, then they must be waiting for some kind of effect brought on by a cause, for change does not come about uncaused.
“Perseverance,” therefore, seems to suggests that a person sits around and takes the beatings the world deals out to them, lying in wait for the beatings to stop because of something that causes them to stop, but this hope presupposes that there will be a cause of the cessation in the first place. As David Hume would argue, just because something has happened continually in the past, it does not necessarily have to happen again. This assumption then makes out perseverance to be a cowards term, but this is not the proper one. “Perseverance” is by no means the trait of a coward. The true nature of perseverance is the active seeking out the end of bad circumstances, utilizing all possible resources and taking all options available save those which trespass upon moral boundaries. Furthermore, it is also the resolution not to give up trying to find good circumstances, no matter how hopeless the possibility of their ending might seem; for it is through action that causes come about, and through causes there come effects.
Moreover, even if one is experiences good circumstances, there is a near certain probability that they are headed into ill ones, for there are two phases of life: good times and bad times, both of which I have already referenced. If one is an optimist, be definition, they should hope that there is a way to avoid entering into bad times; however, if tendency shows that bad times follow good times, then optimists should seek to stop this. But they cannot simply wait for a cause exterior to them to stop the bad times from happening; for this is a contradictory assumption: to think that bad times will naturally come, but to suppose at the same time that something will cause the bad times not to occur is mere unreasonability. Thus, in order to prevent bad times from happening, internal action must be take on the part of the persevering person. Therefore, perseverance requires action.
This definition at its very heart appeals and relates itself to practicality, which is the forsaking of all things being done without a purpose and the focusing on those things which will best lead to a purpose even though they might not have aesthetically pleasing value. Now if I pride myself in optimism, but I think negatively, I would have before claim that I was a liar. However, I have come to see negative thinking with the limitation of having the right mindset as a characteristic of practicality and perseverance which is compatible optimism. Returning to my anecdote, I heard some people speaking of the power of negative thinking and thought them pessimistic; however, in light of this it turns out that the opposite is true. The link here is that optimism first requires the hope for improvement in both good times and bad, and the nature of hope is much more certain than desire. If one desired for success and good circumstances, it might be fine then to just sit and wait for an exterior cause to enact a pleasing effect, but it follows, therefore, based on all I have just established that if one is an optimist, then they will hope, and thus they will actively seek to enact change themselves.
Now in order to enact change, one must identify purpose, and the identification of purpose is the recognition of injustices and ill circumstances in the world coupled with the plan of action to resolve them. Yet this recognition requires negative thinking, because it demands the suggestion of both current ill circumstances, and ill circumstances that may be brought about in the future by some cause that must be discovered (for if the cause is prevented, then the effect too will be prevented). Therefore, I propose that negative thinking, the focusing on the bad circumstances, is a characteristic inherent of optimism.
In direct response to this particular situation, which came to mind as a result of my friend’s assertion, as an optimist, I choose to think the best of this situation and hope for the best, but I think also of the negatives implied, preparing to remove the worst causes. Thus my motto: “Prepare for the worst; hope for the best.”