How to be an Optimist

Optimists think that not only is the glass half full but it’s a lovely glass and someone will be along in a moment to top it up. A few people are neither optimists nor pessimists and for them the glass is simply twice as big as it needs to be. The glass-half-empty metaphor gets everywhere. For instance you never hear people being happy that reservoirs are half full; or that the surface of the earth is one third dry land; or that almost two thirds of marriages are happy.

Pessimists are people born in a minor key. They generally like to think they’re realists moulded from bitter experience. Optimists meanwhile don’t have bitter experiences. On the contrary, losing that leg/job/lottery ticket was the best possible thing that could have happened to them. Indeed there are some pathological optimists around, who must be made entirely of bungee cord as it’s impossible to keep them down.

Optimists are always thinking that things could be a lot worse which means that they actually have a very acute sense of pessimism. Similarly, pessimists are closet optimists in that they continually have a vision of how much better things could be if they weren’t quite so bad.

Both optimism and pessimism are self-fulfilling prophecies which is either great or disastrous news depending on what you are in the first place. Pessimists are born not made and have no hope of becoming optimists which can’t help matters. Optimists know that pessimists will always be miserable which itself is a cheery thought.

Some trades are prone to pessimism. The media for example is the mouthpiece of pessimism because if no news is good news, then all news is bad news. Engineering is full of optimism in that you can’t stay in the business without a strong belief that things are going to go up and stay up.

If optimism is helium of the personality then born-again Christians are little balloons of optimism where somebody has let go of the string. The dark side of optimism is that people with a sunny personality can begin to think that the sun is actually shining from a part of their anatomy. They’re so bright and shiny that everyone nearby is thrown into a darker shadow. Of course there must also be a bright side to pessimism. But no-one’s ever going to find it.


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