Let optimism be defined as faith that the future, individually or collectively, shall be better than the present situation. Then optimism, I say, is betrayal.
When you’re a child, being optimistic is a legitimate pragmatic fudge. You often benefited from believing that the thing around the bend would lift you out of the funk, that your concerted efforts would release you from this fate. Some combination of deus ex machina and human agency, I mean, made you feel powerful. It did me.
But you’re older now and what got you here won’t get you there. You can’t throw the same bridge over everything. Now is it a cloak.
So, let’s get real, shall we? The fact is we just can’t bear the entire weight of the current situation. Therefore do we say, “Things’ll get better.” Therefore we reach for our phones. For a drink, a meal, sex, an email. Spin out a fantastical future. Lionize our pasts.
While all along the singer intones: Can’t quite bear… Just can’t bear this… Can’t quite bear…
You don’t see what I’m saying because you’re so accustomed to reacting–fast as can be–while simultaneously wiping clean from your mind that to which you were reacting. All you know is that you grabbed the drink; that you thought of sex, pursued it; that you told yourself: “You’ll get through this because you’ve gotten through harder things before and, dammit, you’re strong”; that you liked a tweet, your own. Upshot? You’re constantly mentally massaging and managing without fully recognizing what it is you’re trying to massage, manage, coax down. It’s an evasion, a dodge, a fudge, a cheat.
Sure, when you’re young, you’ve always always always got something to look forward to. So fresh! So new! But when you’re older, you know, if you admit it to yourself, that the jig’s up. You might still be keen on a project, an event, a person, but you just know that it’s a variant of the same damn thing. Ergo, it won’t free you from the unbearable weight of the present situation. No escape hatch. And no true liberation (nirvana).
Optimism, for us, yes for us, is therefore a betrayal. It’s the mind’s turning away from what it can’t quite bear by suppling itself with a story that will temporarily mollify its suffering.
Actually, the egoic mind does this fancy two-step. First it just is resistance to present reality. Second it proffers its own stratagems by which it can overcome its own resistance. Optimism, a no to this and a yes to what’s next, is the ego’s call and response–to itself.
Oh, but take it all on now, experience the full weight of the present situation right now, and you will be transformed. As they say, no time like the present.