9.27.2010

A case for Optimism #2.


After my exit from Valley Hope (the treatment facility that lacking any semblance of comfortable color schemes and cozy ‘bedroom’ décor—nevertheless saved my life) I’ve been ambitiously building an existential case for Optimism.
This may hold significance for a number of reasons.
1.     I’ve been a devout pessimist for as long as I can remember save the last three and a half years of which are the ‘recovery years’ referenced often in my scribbleprose as I’m still reeling from this new normal—which includes but is not limited to sanity.
2.     Being a new convert, developing the art of optimism takes much: research, reading, thinking, and re-thinking…
3.     Opening up to new ideas, listening, feeling new feelings (like for instance hope), mixing the metaphorical stew of life outlook with a different base, seasoning the stew with an assortment of theories, commentaries, historical perspectives, and then
4.     Being willing to change my taste viewpoints to that of my own stew rather than someone else’s concoction, my case for optimism builds over the ruins of the ancient past, a town built on pessimism.

With this introduction established, I’ll delve into the observations on life recently prompting yet another stirring of the stew…
I’ve grown increasingly sensitive to aware of comments made by us (well-intending perhaps) grown-ups lollygagging around our critical quips about nearly everything in our society, especially in this here ‘bible belt’.  Lollygagging, meaning, regularly spewing series of rants and raves about everything from cell phones to government to the economy to the impending doom of our shame-on-us-society.  I hear snip-its of these rants everywhere I go—unfortunately but truthfully adding my own no doubt. 
But the more I hear doomsday reports lately, the more I see how we are siphoning oceans of innate innovativeness and hope out of our youngest generations, the future of our adolescent country.  And maybe that’s part of the explanation.  Because we have so little life experience as a country, maybe we are in the adolescent phase of our collective development, or Bible belt development.  I’m not an expert, simply an observer.  Here’s a little rabbit trail…
{Adolescent= the process of developing from a child to an adult; “The major task facing adolescents is to create a stable identity and become complete and productive adults.  Over time, adolescents develop a sense of themselves that transcends the many changes in their experiences and roles.  They find their role in society through active searching which leads to discoveries about themselves.” (Perkins, D., University of Florida 2008)}
Here’s why I think we as a people are in an adolescent phase: we are driven in large part by things like fear, peer pressure, groupthink, bullies, trends, and much more of the like.  And like adolescents, we are unaware of our liabilities yet liable to think we know better than anyone else. 
If we continue to subscribe to ideas and philosophies based on things like fear (believing everything media tells us about what not and what have you), peer pressure (falling in line with family or friends or community without questioning, searching, sleuthing around to find one’s own thoughts on a what not or what have you), groupthink (discouraging creative thought or personality responsibility), bullies (loud unruly voices declaring they know THE way the country needs to go… OR ELSE!), trends (too many what nots and what have yous to mention)…
Without sounding too soapbox-y, I just think it’s a good time to admit we don’t know much, admit we have a long way to go as a country, region, state, city, town, family, me—and it’s high time to listen to what history’s told us about a whole heck of a lot of things, listen to wise peeps who might not be public figures or opinionated partisan personalities.  Wise peeps who might be in everyday life, a teacher, a lady at the grocery store, a dude sitting with you at a smoke break in treatment, a friend, a frenemy, a kid’s comment about how meanie pants we grown ups can be, a stranger, the list proceeds. 
Wise peeps are all around and the cool thing is, everyone has a viable viewpoint.  A viewpoint that comes from a very real experience and encounter with the world, the society they were born into.  Of course we would have different opinions on how we see the past, the present and the future. 
It seems the only logical thing to do is to ask ourselves individually and collectively, why are we doing what we are doing?  Why are we declaring war on each other politically, verbally, without listening or at least making the ground rules for legitimate debate with the end goal compromise?  Why are we spending oodles of money, time, and who knows what else arguing and debating about health care when the fact of the matter is that the system is obliterated, broken to pieces. People are sick. People can’t get well because people who can help are too busy fighting over who owes what to whom.  Period.  I don’t care if you are on one side or the other of the “issue”, just get innovative minds together, form respectful think tanks and let the little-engine-that could start rolling again.  Again, I am no expert. Simply an observer.  Having had real experiences and encounters with this world, this society.  I don’t have any answers, only questions.  So why do so many people these days act like they have answers?  The answers I’ve heard touted around town have proven themselves as off the mark as a wrong answer to an algebraic equation.  I don’t remember getting any credit for a math problem, no matter how I doodled around it, if the answer was wrong. 
Teaching.  Schools. What is going on? We are perpetuating the wrong answer to the equation. So what now?  Back to the drawing board, listen, move ideas around, change perceptions, be open to new seasonings…
Upside is—I think there are just as many ‘hidden’ heroes championing the cause of improving education as there are lawmakers chained to their chairs by party peer pressure.  We just don’t hear as much about the champions who are most likely working tirelessly while most of us moan but don’t move to action. 
Back to the case for optimism that might seem ironic at this point in the soliloquy. I don’t mean to be Debbie Downer.  In fact quite the opposite: 
History observed is full of change, changers, crashes, and Camelot-s.  We’ve come back from wars, had families, gone to work, survived—during depression and boom alike.  We’ve had brilliant minds come up with miracle medicines, light bulbs, highway systems, and battery operated cars.  We’ve hated, forgiven, fought, misunderstood, mended, and changed—sometimes a little bit at a time, sometimes a lot.  We’ve made mistakes and will continue to but we’ve moved ahead too, and will continue to.  We the people, of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, need to remember to instill hope in our children (even if we get wrangled by the attachment to texting device) that change for the BETTER is possible, to think for themselves because we don’t know as much as we act like we do and they better get curious about how everything runs and works so they can choose how THEY want to respond, not how WE want them to respond. 
The past, though patchy, helps build the case for optimism.  The fact that we can learn from what worked and what didn’t work along our nation’s history is brilliantly hopeful.  We can decide to listen to someone else’s opinion without feeling threatened if it differs from ours.  And we can decide to encourage young minds around us to think for themselves because the world is a great big wonderfully mysterious place and they ought to do all the sleuthing around they can, turning over this rock and that, putting puzzle pieces together from the past and fitting them somehow into the present and future.  Innovate, think, create, HOPE for heaven’s sake HOPE.  We don’t have to keep subscribing to fear-driven rants.  Fear inhibits learning, inhibits change, and inhibits growth.  Why would we let fear of what not and what have you (oh so much of it these days) replace courage when our grandparents and their parents, etc. found courage so that we could do the same. 
Even if I fret today over things like Oklahoma being the highest, yes number one, state of incarcerated mothers (hence upwards of 20,000+ children affected), I have a choice what I do with that fret.  If I can, I will do something.  If I can’t do something right now, I will believe that through my lifetime I will see change, there are people that care, change for the better is possible and my message to N and L will be seasoned with ‘yes, you can make a difference for the better even if people say it can’t be done. It can.  You can do whatever you set your mind to… look at Abraham Lincoln, George Washington Carver, your teachers, your grandmas, (the list could go on and on)’
The admission that I’m not sure how we are going to improve certain precarious societal issues may be the invitation N and L need to start asking questions, sleuthing through history, thinking on their own, inventing new possible solutions to not so impossible problems we fret over.  Maybe we can come up with things together, maybe we can write letters to Congress men and women, maybe we can invent something, maybe we can learn something from someone else.
As many folks are trying to help as are trying to hurt.  As many folks are following their instinct and dreams as are perpetuating frenetic pace.  As many want to encourage creative, innovative thought as want to brainwash or control.  As many want to give as want to take.  As many hope as do fear.  As many love as hate.
So rather than rant today especially with young ears near, deliberately affirm the world they (we) can mold if they (we) so choose to activate our taste buds, stir in our own seasonings, see the possibilities rather than focus on the limitations we perceive. 
The case still builds…

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