Cynicism and Optimism: The Case for Hopefulism
By David Ian
It's easy to want to become a cynic. Cynical people have got it easy. All they have to do is see the worst side of things and then not make any effort. From their point of view it's inevitable, and any energy spent in an attempt to avoid the inevitable would be futile. Of course, the thing about being a cynic is you never have to worry about being right, because no one wants you to be right and everyone is so relieved when you're wrong that they don't bother to point it out. And on the off chance that as a cynic you happen to be right, you get to shrug an "I told you so but I knew you wouldn't listen," and then go on to the next thing to be cynical about.
You can't even corner cynics, either, because if you catch them in being wrong and you say, "Ha! You were wrong in your cynical ways," they'll suddenly turn all cynical about being a cynic and shrug again saying, "Bound to happen sooner or later. Probably happen more often, I should expectů"
Not that the world doesn't need cynics. They keep us forever arguing about glasses being half full or half empty and all, although one truly ambitious cynic questioned the need for the glass and its contents in the first place. It's just that it is such a lazy attitude to have, acquiescing to the worst the world has to dish out and taking it as a matter of course.
I can't imagine a world run by cynics; I think the State of the Union address would just be so depressing that many people would rather jump off bridges and buildings than face the future depicted by collective cynical leaders.
Cynical Leader Spokesman #1: "Well, the economy hasn't quite gone into the toilet yet, things are actually looking up right now, but there's no telling how long that's going to last. Investments will probably shrivel up when the inevitable crash comes and money won't be worth the paper it's printed on."
Cynical Leader Spokesman #2: "On the global scene, it's just a matter of time before we all blow ourselves to pieces with wars and all the secret weapons designed to snuff out mankind as a race will be unleashed at once, there won't be so much as an Eskimo left standing. Wouldn't be surprised if it's started already."
Cynical Leader Spokesman #3: "Your government is working its hardest to squeeze the last vestiges of life out of you and your loved ones before going into a downward spiral itself into an oblivion of self-destruction. There's no sense trying to do anything about it, our fate is sealed."
I wouldn't necessarily say that I'm an optimist, I'd rather say that I'm a Hopefulist. The optimist says the glass is half full. The Hopefulist says the glass is at "half potential" and hopes someone comes along and fills up the rest of the glass to the top.
Being a Hopefulist has its advantages; you can hope for the best without having all those pesky expectations unfulfilled. Even the most perky of optimists at some time or another has to look around and get a bit depressed--glasses stay half-full, after all. Hopefulists at least live in a state of perpetual promise and potential; it's not seeing the brighter side of things as they are, it's envisioning a better reality for tomorrow and keeping that as a guiding light. Hopefulists have vision: a glass fully filled to its potential. Optimists settle for too little: a glass half full.
Maybe I can start a movement for Hopefulists. Maybe, it'll catch on to the optimists and the cynics. A world full of vision for realizing a better potential. One can only hope.
As well as being an eternal hopefulist, David Ian is also the Founder and Artistic Director of "Unchained Productions", a Christian theatrical production and resource organization. He is an award-winning playwright, performer, and is touring a one-man comedy show entitled "The Replacement Disciple". His website can be found at www.UnchainedProductions.com. If you would like to write to David Ian, you can do so through the Letters page of this magazine.