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Every act of rebellion expresses a nostalgia for innocence and an appeal to the essence of being. (Albert Camus)
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    "The future. That's what I'm optimistic about."
    "The future. That's what I'm optimistic about."

    The above statement, with which I resonate much and agree wholeheartedly, was made by Etonian zoologist and (now retired) amateur banker Matt Ridley. (see here).
    The context in which I am writing this is the last book in the series created by John Brockman of Edge.org, probably one of the most advanced website on the net. The book title itself is for me a joyful experience if for nothing else that nowadays having an optimistic attitude or view is more or less tantamount to being out of your mind.
    The collection of essays in the book:” what are you optimistic about?” is one of the most inspiring assortments I have come across in a long time.
    Are these people radicals, nut cases, and jokers or simply out of their minds? Well if you consider the greatest scientists and thinkers, philosophers and researchers of our era as such then indeed they are. However if you allow that these humans, fallible as they may be, know a thing or two about the state of affairs of the world, and especially about trends and directions towards which we are proceeding, be it in the science or social departments, then take heed.
    Max More (the extropian) defines optimism as :"A positive and empowering rational attitude toward our individual and collective possibilities." (see here)
    And indeed only a rational attitude towards our individual and collective possibilities may allow us to be optimists whilst seeing the half empty cup in front of us.
    Recently a lecture by Steven Pinker (STEVEN PINKER is the Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University) entitled “ A history of violence” made the world of accepted dogma shiver. “In the decade of Darfur and Iraq, and shortly after the century of Stalin, Hitler, and Mao, the claim that violence has been diminishing may seem somewhere between hallucinatory and obscene. Yet recent studies that seek to quantify the historical ebb and flow of violence point to exactly that conclusion. “ Read all of it at edge.org

    The point of the book, and the point of Pinker, and of many other world renowned authors is one and the same, there are many rational reasons to expect a better future. In fact there are much more reasons to expect betterment than a worsening of the state of affairs in the world both on the personal and on the global level. However most of us seem still to believe that a pessimistic attitude is somehow more “realistic.”
    Not so, the rational realistic approach to life based on our personal and collective capability to overcome difficulties, is the way to go, it is optimism.

    To be an optimist, is a state of mind, that sees beauty and potential where others see dead ends and only continuation of the same. To be an optimist is to engage the world as a personal issue of self-transformation and world enhancement.

    The future is bright, primarily because we can make it so. I am an optimist by nature, but over and above that I truly believe that a rational and informed optimism, based on knowledge and updated information is the needed zeitgeist. Of course to be an optimist, one needs to find out for himself or herself the locus of reasons besides the one we all already have in our brains (see: Source of ‘optimism’ found in the brain).

    Finally a short note on the New Year, I have mentioned Max More before, in the article cited above he goes on to state: “Optimists go beyond holding certain beliefs about the future. They also display certain attitudes. Optimism and pessimism involve not detached estimates of the objective probability of good and bad events in the future, but personal commitments to certain modes of thinking and behaving. By mastering these modes of thinking and adopting optimistic attitudes, we can profoundly influence our thinking, behavior, happiness, and achievement”

    To paraphrase on Max More’s statement, I am an optimist because I am committed to a mode of thinking that heralds a better future.

    A happy and optimistic new year to all.



    Sat, Dec 22, 2007  Permanent link

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