Discover more from neural engine
Why I Choose to Remain Optimistic
I think a lot about how I came to the personality I’m at and the sorts of influences in my life that have led me to this point.
The magnetism of negativity is alluring, much like "the Dark Side" in the Star Wars films. It feels very much like you could thrive and become more powerful by embracing it. That you could find inspiration by embracing the angst and the disdain.
“I’ll remember the pain because it makes for better art” is a similar sentiment echoed in many circles of artists and creatives. I’ve never wholeheartedly subscribed to that belief, although I used to joke about it. I could never find myself being negative for long, because I’d inevitably find something else to be grateful about, to appreciate.
Negative feelings or experiences can be worth an ocean of inspiration. Yet, constantly dipping into that pool means spending longer each time you’re down there. Soon enough, it becomes harder to remember what life was like above the water. You forget.
While my parents instilled in me through example their sense of righteousness, their unbounded passion for being active agents of their lives, and impulse to express themselves fully, it still took me some time to break my mold of self-imposed reservations on how I felt I should act and what type of person I was becoming. I didn’t quite know how they were so resilient. Stories helped me find that understanding. Through storytelling, I picked up more of the things they wanted to impart to me. While I have had their unconditional support my whole life, I had to come into an understanding on my own.
Besides my parents leading by example, in the external world, I’d say there were two more figures that inspired me and continue to inspire me to be the person I am today: The Doctor and Mr. Rogers.
Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood was always a comforting presence. My family would often play the show for me and I found myself super amused by it. While today, I don’t have specific memories of particular events that occurred in the episodes, the salient aspects of the show were definitely Fred Rogers’ personality, his mild-mannered, soft approach as well has his penchant for teaching kid-friendly lessons on being kind, accepting, cognizant of your feelings, and being true to yourself. It was wholesome.
The Doctor, from Doctor Who is another memorable figure. He is a time traveling alien, zipping around space and time in a blue Police Box, sticking up for the little guy and making things right. He travels to wondrous worlds, meeting all sorts of companions and alien species. Ever the more chipper, he was always willing to hold steadfast in striving for what was right, even when all hope seemed lost. No matter how dire a situation the show-runners would throw the Doctor into, he'd always maintain a freewheeling, frenetic energy about him.
He was resourceful, wise, foolish and kind. Many stories and episodes spoke to the resilience and sheer determination of the Doctor to maintain his faith in serving, his belief in a better world and a proper, peaceful resolution to conflict. The episode "Heaven Sent" from the 9th series of the reboot is thus one of my all time favorite episodes of Doctor Who (IYKYK). It perfectly encapsulates who the Doctor is as a character. And I wanted to be like the very best of him.
It's a common wish to want to leave the world a better place than you entered it but it's less common to see it come into fruition through action. To be optimistic is a choice, but so too, is to act. I'm more welcoming of a grumbling doer, whose actions raise those around them, than the fanciful well-wisher, whose thoughts and prayers lend a presence as intangible as wisp of smoke.
Ultimately, I believe that there’s a sense of right and wrong-ness; that I’m okay to make mistakes sometime because it’s just proof of me being human. It’s important to be open-minded to see the possibilities of my actions.
Lately, I find it harder and harder to find people who share that hearty sense of optimism. However, the ones that I have met that do, share not only that but also a sense of control over their world. Things can change. It may require a little bit of work, it may require a lot of work. Yet, the goal remains. The process remains.
I've stepped away from blind optimism, where the future seems so bright that you're blinded to the very real point that we have limited time, willpower, and resources to get some things done so we have to be measured with how we approach things.
I like how Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita presents the idea of action.
“tasmād asaktaḥ satataṁ kāryaṁ karma samāchara
asakto hyācharan karma param āpnoti pūruṣhaḥ”
Translated into English, that is:
“Therefore, giving up attachment, perform actions as a matter of duty because by working without being attached to the fruits, one attains the Supreme.”
I have no illusions that I am entitled to any "rewards" of whatever I act to do. But ultimately, the act of doing is in my capacity.
It’s only human to experience the wide spectrum of emotions. I used to feel that great art came from great pain. That by deeply holding onto the negative feelings, you could wring the ink out of them, and put it to a meter in sheet music or paint with it on a large canvas. Yet, my family and figures like Mr. Rogers, and The Doctor, helped me see that it’s okay to let yourself feel strongly about things, as long as you’re prepared to not be beholden to them.