Is There A Reason To Be Optimistic?

The Story

The little boy ran into his father’s office.  It was well past the boys bed time, but he had snuck downstairs and been watching a science program on cable.  His father liked his son’s interest in learning, but on occasion, the shows would frighten him.  Tonight the little boy of eight, had watched a program about super volcanos.

He explained to his dad that there is a volcano in Yellowstone National Park.  The father listened to his boy go over every detail.  The look on the boys face was a mixture of fear and excitement.  The excitement came from learning something new.  His face always lit up when he was being taught.  It didnt matter whether it was how to properly field a sharply hit ground ball, or intructions on the best way to build a campfire, his son loved it all.   The look of fear was less common, but the father had seen it just a week earlier.

It had been a similar night when the boy ran in and explained that he had just seen a show about ‘planet killers’.  Apparently the odds of the earth being hit by a comet or asteroid, which is large enough to cause human extention, are just 1:5000.  The boy reasoned that since they knew someone who had won the state lotter, which was odd of 1:2,100,000, that 1:5000 seemed very possible.  The father hadn’t known exactly how to respond to his son’s logic, and had been a bit disappointed in the lame reassurances he had given his boy.  The father had thought about this often since then.

Now he was faced with super volcanos.  His son explained that if the Yellowstone National Park’s super volcano errupted, it would so greatly change the atomosphere that we would likely end up in another ice age.  The most frightening part, he explained with a seriousness, which was so cute it almost made the father smile, was that the volcano errupts every 600,000 years, and has errupted twice.  Then the little boy paused for effect.  He asked, “Dad, do you know how long it has been since the last erruption?”

It took every bit of the father’s self control to remain serious in the face of this serious question, and seriously cute little boy.  “No, I do not.”

“It has been 640,000 years!” the little boy said emphatically, then lowered his voice and crawled up on his father’s lap.  “What will we do?  It could happen any time.”

This time the father was ready to give an answer.  He gave him a hug and handed him his calculator.  “You are eight years old, I want you to think about that.” 

The boy nodded, but corrected, “I am eight and one third.”

“Yes you are, you are 8.33 years old,” the father smiled and continued, “If you live to be as old as your grandfather, you will live to be 100 years old.  How many more years is that?”

The boy didn’t need the calculator, “It is 91.66 years.”

“That is correct.  Now you are worried about the volcano errupting during your life, right?”

“Yes, it is way over due,” said the little boy with a sigh.

“Now I want you to think about the last 40,000 years.  How many times does 91.66 go into 40,000?”

The little boy punched this into the calculator and answered, “The answer is 436.39.”

The father went on to explain how it would have been a shame if all those 436 generations of people had spent their entire lives worrying about something  which they couldn’t control?  The little boy agreed that it wouldn’t be fun to be worried all the time.  His father asked him if he knew what optimism and pessimism meant?

Glass Half Full

The little boy scrunched up his face and thought for a while, then admitted that he didn’t.  The father explained that one can spend their life looking for positive things or for negative things.  The father pointed to his glass on the desk.  “Do you see this?”  He poured some Pepsi into the glass.  “What do you see?”

The little boy knew that his father wanted a precise answer, because this is how his father liked to teach him.  He said, “I see one of mom’s favorite glasses.  It is tall and thin.  It is  half full of pepsi, which I am assuming, because I saw you pour it from the can.  Now I don’t for sure if it was Pepsi in the can, because you could have filled the can with something else, as I didn’t see you open the can.”

The father chuckled.  His son liked to watch CSI and sounded a bit like he belonged on the show.  “Yes, that is a very good answer.  Very precise.  You described it has being half full, you saw the positive, you are an optimist.  If you had said, it is half empty, then you would be a pessimist.  Do you understand?”

The little boy had a big smile on his face.  “It is a choice!  Everything can be described in different ways.”

The father was very proud.  “Yes, that is right.”  He looked at the clock and it was now very much past the little boy’s bed time.  “Now what do you think about Super Volcanos?”

The little boy thought for a long time, then said, “Well I guess we can’t stop it, so we might as well be happy now, and not waste our time worrying.”

“I agree.  Do you feel better?”  The father ask.

“Yes.”

“Well then you should be off to bed, before your mother catches us.  We will both be in trouble…and unhappy, if that happens.”

The boy got off his father’s lap and headed for the stairs.  Just before he got there, he turned and said.  “I like being an optimist.  It is a good way to live.”

The Answer as I see it

The world is a big place, unless one considers the size of the universe, then it is so tiny as to almost not exist at all.  With this in mind I feel compelled to answer the question, with a question, which is horribly rude, but alas that is what I am going to do. 

Q:  Is There A Reason To Be Optimistic?

A:  Is there a comelling reason not to be Optimistic?

I am sure there are plenty of angry, bitter, pessimistic people, who could real off lists of things, that are wrong with the world.  But I am not one of them.  I have only a list of things I love…

  1. The thrill of capturing a beautiful photograph.
  2. The feel of wood which has been sanded to 600 grit.
  3. The joy of accomplishment at having completed a project.
  4. The happiness I feel when learning something new.
  5. The wonderfulness of, not knowing, what is still to come.
  6. Cats….and sometimes Dogs.

So those are a few of my reasons, why I am optimistic.  I would love to read some of yours.

Alternate Ending…for the Pessimists

The little boy laid his head down on his pillow and drifted off to sleep.  He truly felt better after the talk.  He liked knowing two new words.  A word which wasn’t in his vocabluary though, was irony.  For just three hours later, an astroid, roughly the size of Padauka Kentucky, slammed into the home of the little boy, killing him, his family, they guy who won the lottery and most of the west coast instantly.  The impact caused the erruption of the super volcano and eventually to the destruciton of 99.9 percent of mankind, and another ice age. 

In the wayning hours of mankind, the pessimists experienced the collective joy of the greatest, “I told you so” moment in history.  It is the only point in time where they were known to be happy.

66 comments
Kate F. Eaton
Kate F. Eaton

Brian, wish I'd seen this post earlier! You're absolutely right, it's all about choice. We can either be miserable, angry people who are waiting for the worst to come and confirm our fears or we can live with love and generosity, expecting the best to happen. That's not Pollyanna philosophy, that's acknowledging what we can and can't control and looking forward to rather than dreading our lives.

Dennis Salvatier
Dennis Salvatier

Brian, thanks for fighting cynicism with this story. These last two years have been rough for everyone but you can tell who the people are that are still willing to live the best life they can live regardless of the circumstances. Great read!

Mina Joshi
Mina Joshi

Brian

Came across your blog vai linkedin. I enjoyed the short story for 2 reasons. One is the positive ending (I didn't care for the negative ending as it didn't go into a lot of detail on their demise!). Second is because I have a son similar to the character in the story and sometimes, I am not able to answer all his questions!!

I would love to follow your blog but not been able to figure it out!! I'll take another look and have a go.

Mina

Mina Joshi
Mina Joshi

Brian

Came across your blog vai linkedin. I enjoyed the short story for 2 reasons. One is the positive ending (I didn't care for the negative ending as it didn't go into a lot of detail on their demise!). Second is because I have a son similar to the character in the story and sometimes, I am not able to answer all his questions!!

I would love to follow your blog but not been able to figure it out!! I'll take another look and have a go.

Mina

Mina Joshi
Mina Joshi

Brian

Came across your blog vai linkedin. I enjoyed the short story for 2 reasons. One is the positive ending (I didn't care for the negative ending as it didn't go into a lot of detail on their demise!). Second is because I have a son similar to the character in the story and sometimes, I am not able to answer all his questions!!

I would love to follow your blog but not been able to figure it out!! I'll take another look and have a go.

Mina

Mina Joshi
Mina Joshi

Brian

Came across your blog vai linkedin. I enjoyed the short story for 2 reasons. One is the positive ending (I didn't care for the negative ending as it didn't go into a lot of detail on their demise!). Second is because I have a son similar to the character in the story and sometimes, I am not able to answer all his questions!!

I would love to follow your blog but not been able to figure it out!! I'll take another look and have a go.

Mina

Sherryl Perry
Sherryl Perry

Brian,

Nice story. Thanks for sharing. Looking at the glass as half-full is so much better. I think optimists have more friends and sleep better at night! :)

Paul Novak
Paul Novak

Good read as always Brian.

I'm one of those people who's outlook is usually heavily colored by how he feels at any particular moment. That said, I have to be honest and admit I am probably more of a pessimist than optimist. However, I do try to refrain from "I told you so!" ;)

Paul Novak
Paul Novak

Good read as always Brian.

I'm one of those people who's outlook is usually heavily colored by how he feels at any particular moment. That said, I have to be honest and admit I am probably more of a pessimist than optimist. However, I do try to refrain from "I told you so!" ;)

Ana Manzo
Ana Manzo

WOW!!! I LOVE this post! It´s exactly what I needed today!
So:
THANK YOU, Brian!!!
Keep writing... I´ll keep reading :)
Ana

Ana Manzo
Ana Manzo

WOW!!! I LOVE this post! It´s exactly what I needed today!
So:
THANK YOU, Brian!!!
Keep writing... I´ll keep reading :)
Ana

Catarina Alexon
Catarina Alexon

Good story Brian, but too long for my liking. What would life be without optimism? A nightmare is probably putting it mildly.

Susan Oakes
Susan Oakes

Hi Brian,

You are a great storyteller and I agree with you about optimism. I find those that are not optimistic also tend to be worriers or the 'it might happen one day" way of thinking.

It seems a shame to waste life thinking of what might happen rather than enjoy each moment and day.

Dennis Salvatier
Dennis Salvatier

Brian, this reminds me of why I'm so glad I don't associate with certain people anymore. It really makes a difference when you associate with positive-minded people.

Steve Mouzon
Steve Mouzon

Thanks, Brian! This reminds me of a true story of an old man who wrote a letter to the editor (Philadelphia Enquirer, I believe.) He said "I once was a young man, but now am old. I've had many troubles in my life. Most of them never happened."

I'll second that... most of the things I worried about raising my kids never happened, either. Sure, they got in a little trouble, but nothing permanent.

ModernSauce
ModernSauce

haha! Pessimists. You are what you think.

Great post Brian. ; )

ModernSauce
ModernSauce

haha! Pessimists. You are what you think.

Great post Brian. ; )

Sheila Landry
Sheila Landry

I have a very dear and intelligent friend who taught me the saying "we follow where we focus." I have tried to live with that in mind and find that the more positive I think and live, the better my life is.

Yes, we can look at all the doom and gloom around us and worry about it and wait for its arrival, being miserable all the time, or we can embrace hope and joy and all the good things in life, as the boy's father taught him, and live a happy existence.

I prefer to be happy and optimistic! Thank you for a lovely story!

Sheila

Sheila Landry
Sheila Landry

I have a very dear and intelligent friend who taught me the saying "we follow where we focus." I have tried to live with that in mind and find that the more positive I think and live, the better my life is.

Yes, we can look at all the doom and gloom around us and worry about it and wait for its arrival, being miserable all the time, or we can embrace hope and joy and all the good things in life, as the boy's father taught him, and live a happy existence.

I prefer to be happy and optimistic! Thank you for a lovely story!

Sheila

Jeannette Paladino
Jeannette Paladino

Stages actors have a saying to "stay in the moment." That is, be focused on what you are doing then. That's what I try to do. Live for the moment: today, not tomorrow. I try to take joy in my friends and family. It isn't always possible to be optimistic, because bad things do happen to good people. But enjoy today. As a friend once remarked, "Tomorrow ain't promised to you."

Jeannette Paladino
Jeannette Paladino

Stages actors have a saying to "stay in the moment." That is, be focused on what you are doing then. That's what I try to do. Live for the moment: today, not tomorrow. I try to take joy in my friends and family. It isn't always possible to be optimistic, because bad things do happen to good people. But enjoy today. As a friend once remarked, "Tomorrow ain't promised to you."

Ann Porter
Ann Porter

A beautiful story for getting a great point accross.

Joseph
Joseph

I think that if I just sit and think about the economy, etc. that I can quickly get myself into a very deep funk. And in the end there is nothing at all I can do about that sort of thing. The only thing I can control is my own life, and that only partially. However, I am not one to curse the universe when things go badly. I just roll up my sleeves and do what I can. The other thing is that I firmly believe people have to believe in themselves. Lots and lots of people freeze when they have to take a test. They know the material, but they’re so afraid they’re going to blow it that they end up doing just that. For myself, I feel if I studied, I’ll do just fine, and I do. But the other part of that is that success breeds success. I have learned quite a bit over the years that I didn’t think I could do at all, and that was how I did, by building on my successes, however small they may have been.

Joseph
Joseph

I think that if I just sit and think about the economy, etc. that I can quickly get myself into a very deep funk. And in the end there is nothing at all I can do about that sort of thing. The only thing I can control is my own life, and that only partially. However, I am not one to curse the universe when things go badly. I just roll up my sleeves and do what I can. The other thing is that I firmly believe people have to believe in themselves. Lots and lots of people freeze when they have to take a test. They know the material, but they’re so afraid they’re going to blow it that they end up doing just that. For myself, I feel if I studied, I’ll do just fine, and I do. But the other part of that is that success breeds success. I have learned quite a bit over the years that I didn’t think I could do at all, and that was how I did, by building on my successes, however small they may have been.

Laura Sherman
Laura Sherman

I believe we create our one realities. Pessimistic people are unhappy and horrible things happen to them. You can actually see them manufacturing it sometimes, if you're watching.

Optimistic, positive thinking people tend to do much better in life. Good things happen all the time. Of course they're usually helping others and making a positive contribution to the society, which makes a difference.

I like that the little boy in your story asks questions and thinks things through logically. That with positive thinking is a winning combination!

Laura Sherman
Laura Sherman

I believe we create our one realities. Pessimistic people are unhappy and horrible things happen to them. You can actually see them manufacturing it sometimes, if you're watching.

Optimistic, positive thinking people tend to do much better in life. Good things happen all the time. Of course they're usually helping others and making a positive contribution to the society, which makes a difference.

I like that the little boy in your story asks questions and thinks things through logically. That with positive thinking is a winning combination!

Betsy DeMaio
Betsy DeMaio

You ask some interesting questions. I enjoy reading a piece that challenges my beliefs!

Betsy DeMaio
Betsy DeMaio

You ask some interesting questions. I enjoy reading a piece that challenges my beliefs!

Keyuri Joshi (on the ball parent coach)
Keyuri Joshi (on the ball parent coach)

What a beautiful post! As a parenting coach, I deeply appreciate the patient and nurturing parenting style of this father. Super lucky kid!

I'm optimistic because I know that the majority of the time, after we experience difficulty, we become stronger. From that strength, good things emerge. Think of J. K. Rowling who wrote the Harry Potter series. She admits that the pain of her own mother's death is what impacted every other page of the story. Just last week, the world witnessed the rescue of 33 Chilean miners. What awaits them? Movie and book deals ... and oh yes, a boatload of money.

Realism about personal progress out of both good and not so good situations allows me to be optimistic no matter what.

Keyuri Joshi (on the ball parent coach)
Keyuri Joshi (on the ball parent coach)

What a beautiful post! As a parenting coach, I deeply appreciate the patient and nurturing parenting style of this father. Super lucky kid!

I'm optimistic because I know that the majority of the time, after we experience difficulty, we become stronger. From that strength, good things emerge. Think of J. K. Rowling who wrote the Harry Potter series. She admits that the pain of her own mother's death is what impacted every other page of the story. Just last week, the world witnessed the rescue of 33 Chilean miners. What awaits them? Movie and book deals ... and oh yes, a boatload of money.

Realism about personal progress out of both good and not so good situations allows me to be optimistic no matter what.

Patricia Weber
Patricia Weber

Stories like this, even though longer than my typical preferred read, are so engaging. You had me thinking it "could be true" until reading the ALTERNATE ending! A story within a story!

So to your question, Q: Is There A Reason To Be Optimistic? and my A: Can you say of a time where optimism did work for you or someone you know?

Thanks for a wonderful writing style with points worth introspecting about!

Patricia Weber
Patricia Weber

Stories like this, even though longer than my typical preferred read, are so engaging. You had me thinking it "could be true" until reading the ALTERNATE ending! A story within a story!

So to your question, Q: Is There A Reason To Be Optimistic? and my A: Can you say of a time where optimism did work for you or someone you know?

Thanks for a wonderful writing style with points worth introspecting about!

Julie Weishaar
Julie Weishaar

Oh my - I hope this is a fictional story or that poor father is either going to become very weary in a short period of time or his son is going to spend an awful lot of time on a therapist's couch :) Or from an optimistic point of view, perhaps the little boy will grow up to be another Albert Einstein!

Nice way of getting your point across though. Yes, it is all about the choices we make and to remain optimistic is certainly a good choice. My mother always used to say, and still does, there is no point in worrying that something might happen - if it does happen - there will be time enough to worry. Why waste your time thinking and worrying about something that might not even happen. That is a true story :)

Thanks for sharing your insights!

Chamois
Chamois

Great post! Had to read it as soon as I saw it up as I'm not sure how much time I'll have to devote to perusing the posts tomorrow. I had a good chuckle at that last sentence - ironic how they would have to abandon their pessimism at the last instant of life and embrace optimism, albeit a skewed optimism. Again, excellent post - love the use of a story to display your opinion.

Chamois
Chamois

Great post! Had to read it as soon as I saw it up as I'm not sure how much time I'll have to devote to perusing the posts tomorrow. I had a good chuckle at that last sentence - ironic how they would have to abandon their pessimism at the last instant of life and embrace optimism, albeit a skewed optimism. Again, excellent post - love the use of a story to display your opinion.

LilPecan
LilPecan

Was this post sponsored by Pepsi?

Richard Berman
Richard Berman

Brian, I am optimistic because the Phillies are in the second level of the playoff and unless they are hit by an astroid the siz of Kentucky I think they will be in the World Series again. Another reason to be optimistic: I have so far in life avoided meeting Donald Trump. Enjoyed your story. Rich

Richard Berman
Richard Berman

Brian, I am optimistic because the Phillies are in the second level of the playoff and unless they are hit by an astroid the siz of Kentucky I think they will be in the World Series again. Another reason to be optimistic: I have so far in life avoided meeting Donald Trump. Enjoyed your story. Rich

jb @BMoxieBMore
jb @BMoxieBMore

I know I shouldn't be reading because you are early for the blogoff -- but I love the way you tell stories Brian . . . so full of point and purpose. Especially like your bit to the pessimist. glass half full to you. signed a fan of the yin yang your accidental pessimist jb