torsdag, september 27, 2007

Redefining optimism

Whenever I am trapped in a frustrating situation, the first option I consider is not the hackneyed advice "Make the best out of the worst", but "Get out of this quickly". If extricating myself from such annoying predicaments proves impossible, only then I'll (grudgingly) try to make the best out of the worst.

People always say that your ability to make the best out of worst is indicative of the amount of determination you have. It allows you to develop perseverance and face difficulties bravely and calmly in times of desperation - it makes your life easier in those moments, it alleviates the stress you face. Determination is undeniably a good trait. I deeply admire people with determination, which is something I admittedly lack. But personally I think most of the people who truly think that making the best out of the worst is the most satisfactory solution are not genuinely courageous, but are simply trying to provide some consolation for themselves, whether they realise or admit it or not. They know they can't escape from their troubles, and thus they settle for the second best option - which is to make the best out of the worst. But they are reluctant to accept their fate and the fact that they are - at least for a period of time long enough to cause suffering - unable to save themselves from such intractable scenarios. And so they unconsciously lull themselves into a state of denial, successfully fooling themselves into believing that this is what they want - they want to remain in this situation, difficult and painful as it is, because they want to train themselves, because they wish to better themselves in terms of character, by becoming more determined; they have a choice, but they choose to stay in this quagmire, because they want to challenge themselves, so that in future if they encounter a similar problem again, they will be able to face it with ease. Yes, this is what they (want to) believe. And now the art of self-denial has become so sophisticated and convincing that "make the best out of the worst" is no longer just a second-best solution - it has become the best, a true display of courage.

Why make things so hard for yourself? If I have a choice, I would never, ever choose to be restricted by my circumstances and then tell myself, Oh, let this be a test for me, let this be a lesson to develop my sense of determination. I'd run away. I would never worry about encountering something similar in future, and tell myself that I need to start preparing myself mentally and psychologically for the unpleasant possibilities from this very minute onwards. If I really do find myself in the same position again in future, I'll definitely choose to run away if I still have a choice. I'll keep running away if I can.

No, this is not an act of cowardice. I live for this instant, and I tell myself not to worry incessantly about the ugly things that may befall me in future. This is the happiest way to live your life - to have as few responsibilities as possible. To get out of sticky circumstances as quickly as you can. This is the easiest way out, and not "make the best out of the worst". Because the second you start believing in that platitude, you'll forever be stuck in the worst situations. You'll never run away.

Running away is not something to be ashamed of. It is, in fact, a bigger act of true courage. By running away, I'll telling the world, Look, I won't be held down by your baggage - the baggage convention has imposed on me. I want to be happy and free. You can be the hero, the epitome of determination; you can despise me for running away, you can call me a coward. I don't give a damn. You think you're optimistic, but you don't know what optimism is.

I am Optimism, because while you're exhausting yourself over burdens you can abandon if you want to (if only you care less about your reputation and your heroic image), I'm flying and discovering the limits of the skies.

6 kommentarer:

Anonym sagde ...

However, if one weighs his or her character above comfort, then they would rather stay and 'make the best out of it' than to escape.

Not all things can be escaped from, and those that can usually has its costs (inconvenience to others, personal guilt, etc).

Its the same scenario illustrated in 'The Last Samurai, when the samurai fought to the last man, instead of giving in to modernization.

Comfort is not everything.

Miao sagde ...

Anonymous:

You're right in saying that not all things can be escaped from, and this is something I acknowledge (read the first paragraph). But, to me, "make the best out of the worst" is always the second best option.

I mentioned in my entry that I wish to have as few responsibilities/burdens as possible. On the subject of personal guilt, well, to me it is a burden, and it is probably not something that will lessen as time passes. It may even increase its weight. So if the burden of personal guilt outweighs that of remaining in a painful situation, I'd choose the latter.

I've never watched 'The Last Samurai' before, but from what you mentioned in your comment I have come up with my own interpretation. A hasty conclusion, since I don't know enough. Probably the samurai felt that the burden of personal guilt he would suffer if he allowed modernisation to destroy the tradition outweighed that of putting up a fight, and so he decided to retaliate, even if it meant he would die in the process. Because he'd rather die and enjoy the lightness of death than to live on and carry the weight of self-reproachment.

Comfort is not everything. I disagree. I may change my mind in future but right now I disagree.

Anonym sagde ...

In the end it'll still boil down to each person's situation and his perspective on things.

If the definition of comfort is how the person feels, the people who choose not 'to run' probably feels more comforted not to. It just boils down to what one derives his comfort from. And some just derives this from doing what he thinks is right, or what you stated ignominiously as 'your reputation and your heroic image'.

I wouldn't call this optimism, but I wouldn't call it cowardice either. It can be equally brave to not leave the field knowing you can.

The Usual Stuff sagde ...

What can be worse than to convince yourself that being stuck up to your ears in manure is something positive? That is the kind of thing that drives me crazy about the "living positively" pseudo-philosophy. If something is bad, it is bad. What you do with it is the real difference. If you complain about it, but remain stuck, there's no solution. If you see only the advantages, there's no progress. If you fight your way out, that is some kind of progress, even if you swear and curse while at it.
Probably my point is to show how certain paths of thinking conduct people to a static comfort. Comfort is not bad, as long as it doesn't chain you to the same ground forever. Like hobbits, I am able to renounce to comforts to look for something bigger or better, but complain a lot in the way.

Miao sagde ...

Anonymous: Thanks for your input. You're right in saying that different people derive comfort from different things. Perhaps they feel comforted staying in a situation just to do what they feel is right despite given the chance to escape from the shackles of a predicament. I guess I'll have to revise my entry on this. But you have to see that if you argue that everyone makes different choices and decisions based on their own ideal of 'comfort', then referring to your very first comment, you are wrong in saying that 'Comfort is not everything', because it is everything.

I think The Usual Stuff has expressed it better than I ever could: "I am able to renounce to comforts to look for something bigger or better, but complain a lot in the way." But for me, I'd rather not renounce my comforts and not complain. If I have to renounce my comforts, I will, but I won't do so without at least some grumbling.

claire sagde ...

i find your analogies funny... i had a little chuckle! i like that you used "running away" in a good sense and also getting rid of the "worlds baggage" very nice metaphor :)
i agree with you about going for "your own sense of" gold rather than just sticking at where your at in order to toughen yourself :)