I Read the News Today, Oh Boy…

March 15, 2011

Recently, while discussing something or other with a long-time friend of mine, I made an off-the-cuff remark. Something so typical that I don’t honestly even recall what it was. But her response, I will assuredly not forget. Very matter-of-factly she replied: “Yeah, but that’s because you’re a pessimist.”

A pessimist.

The words hit me hard. It was like finding the corner piece to a jigsaw puzzle. Suddenly things started making a lot more sense.

A pessimist.

I wanted so badly to argue. To refute her analysis. To advocate myself as a shining beacon of hope and positivity. But, when it comes right down to it… I have no argument. I have no retort. I have no ground to stand on.

I am a pessimist.

This isn’t to say I think of myself as a bad person, or even a depressing person to be around (for the most part). I laugh and dance. I smile and take joy in many things. I revel in the beauty this world has to offer. I love with my whole heart.

I guess I’ve always just considered myself a “realist.”

 

Planning for the worst, working on contingency, and never expecting miracles. But the glass must either be half full or half empty– it’s not just half. And, to be completely truthful, when you show me a half glass of water, I’m most likely to say it’s half gone.

So. I am a pessimist. A doomsdayer. A nay-sayer.

In this day in age– this era of instantaneity, with a 24 hour news cycle and live streaming from the other side of the globe– it feels difficult to optimistically project a future. War, pestilence, and oppression abound– and maybe that is, and always has been, the human condition. But our wars are no longer fought with sticks and stones; spears; or even simple guns. The reality reflects a planet at the mercy of egotistical apes. Take that evolution.

Americans, meanwhile, are hell-bent on self destruction, as distinctly evidenced by our celebrity culture. Our perverse infatuation with not only watching, but encouraging those in the lime-light to make all the wrong decisions has reached a critical mass. Countless “celebrities” over the past few decades have lost everything to overindulgence. And everyone sits home and laughs while stuffing their faces with foods we know are killing us. Because, as I hear casually stated far too often for my own comfort, “everything gives you cancer!” Excusing away our own bad behaviors is much more simple when we can compare them with the self-negligent behaviors of others. Drugs and binge drinking are not healthy, casual sex is extremely risky, and laying in a tanning bed is FACT: bad for you.

The glamorization of morally and questionable decision-making does not bode well for our society. Gen Y, grasping desperately for idols, comes up somewhere between Lindsey Lohan and Charlie Sheen– a tragic drug addict promoting himself successfully as an “unemployed winner.” Our culture of shameless excess is beginning to repulse me.

For much of my life, I touted myself as merely cynical. I’m realizing now that perhaps cynicism is just a symptom of an entire worldview. A helplessly dismal perspective on the universe as a whole. And I see, in the discouraged faces of many of my over-educated unemployed peers, that I may not be alone in my outlook. While I cannot speak for a whole generation, it does seem undeniable that Gen Y has quite the uphill battle ahead. Toward what end, there are no guarantees. Our culture’s self-depricating, overtly cynical sense of humor bears the brunt of harsh reality. Mama bear always says– you can either laugh or cry.

Most of the time, I am more than capable of coping with my emotions. While my initial reactions tend toward sheer negativity, I balance it out in my head. I know not everything is as bad as it initially seems. But I can’t fight that instinct which jumps to the worst case. No sooner has an idea has been conceived in my mind, than I’m on the “what if” committee throwing out disaster scenarios. Tossing monkey wrenches into the dream works.

Call me reality police.

I wake up every morning and live my day in fear of the “other shoe dropping.” Good things, in my perspective, never come without the bad. The bad is often worse than the good. Everything ends. And everybody dies… Depressed yet?! Sheesh…

Not too long ago, I read quite possibly the most beautiful and inspirational thing I’ve ever read. A fact I have been obsessing over since learning it. Billions of years from now– after the sun has flared up, incinerating the planets and unhinging our universe as we know it– the gaseous ball will cool into carbon. At the end of relative time, what was once the life-providing center of our galaxy will overzealously destroy everything it sustained, then proceed to lay dormant for eternity– forming a gargantuan diamond at the heart of our solar system.

The sun ends it’s glorious life as a diamond. For whatever reason, this brings a passionate spark of hope to my pessimistic little heart.

Shine on.

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4 Responses to “I Read the News Today, Oh Boy…”

  1. Mike in Austin Says:

    I think you have a case of S.A.D. It happens to a lot of people, and exacerbated by the troubling times we are living in. You seem to be pragmatic, rational and appropriately skeptical when necessary (it seems, but I don’t really know you)

    All the compassion and love in the world can’t fix the problems in Japan. They got a very bad break. We can hope for them, or pray, or do whatever meditation you like.

    I moved out of Minneapolis because every March I was Mr. grumpy gills. Couldn’t fight it anymore, or had to plan to leave on vacation. It’s helped. That said, this has been a tough year/season for everyone. You are not alone.

    My grandfather said to me as he lay dying “The most important thing that you can do in your life is be the man you want to be, and do things that let you respect yourself. That may work out with money, fame, etc. It may not. But in the end you’ll like yourself. And no matter where you are in the cycle, you will always have that.”

    Good luck. Sunshine is right around the corner of the calander. It’s always darkest before it gets light.


    • Thank you for your kind words. I know the cycle of seasonal depression all-too-well. I know there are always brighter times, but my preoccupation with the end-of-days has reached a nearly obsessive level. It’s simultaneously relieving and disturbing. I feel concurrent surges of frantic panic and transcendent calm.
      Whatever that all means…
      But, yes. As a fortune cookie once told me– “Joys are often the shadows cast by sorrows.”
      At the time, I didn’t get it, but for some reason I kept the fortune (not typical of me). My literary inclinations don’t allow me to see coincidence. Two years later, I’ve finally come to understand.

  2. Josh Says:

    You know what I hate. Those moments of euphoria where you feel like your one with everyone on the planet and even the planet its self. Then it all turns to poop and waves of sadness hit you, cause hey there’s a catch, you gotta feel it all to be enlightened.


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