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Category: Humans

Half and Half
I read an alarming story in the paper yesterday. 900,000 gallons of partially treated sewage was accidentally released into the bay. My concern was relieved, however, by the fact that the 900,000 gallons of sewage was partially treated.

This situation is not quite the same as the classic example of optimism vs. pessimism where one person sees the glass is half full, while someone else sees it as half empty. That is a difference of perception. Here the perceptions are identical: the spilled sewage was partially treated. Optimism is not required. The upside is exactly the same as the downside.

Perhaps this scenario has a particular appeal to me because I try to be a “positive realist,” and a story like this hits me right in that sweet spot.

Yes, a positive realist. In case you don’t know, that’s someone who sees the glass as half full…of partially treated sewage.
Either Way
I’m optimistic about the future. I’m optimistic that the world will get better. I’m even optimistic about the human race.

In fact, I’m optimistic about optimism. I prefer it over pessimism not just because it feels better, but because it allows you to seize opportunities without hesitation. Optimism is like the fearless little sister of Hope, and who wouldn’t want to hang out with that cheerful clan? Pessimism, conversely, tends to choke you up at decision time. Pessimism, sadly, must spend his Christmas holidays with Uncle Downer and the whole dysfunctional Fear family.

That said, both outlooks are workable approaches to dealing with life. It is when human stupidity is introduced into the equation that things go wrong. In the case of pessimism, the result is paranoia. When you’re an optimist, stupidity will fill your mind with wishful thinking, leading you to seize opportunities that don’t exist.

Take, for example, chocolate. Can we all just admit that chocolate is candy? We eat it because it tastes so sweet and rich, not because it’s good for us. We know that. However, we also know that, if researchers tried hard enough, they could find health benefits from eating chocolate. Wishful thinking is a powerful force. There had to be something good about it, and when they found it, that was the only excuse the optimists would need to start whuffing down the bon-bons.

They’ve also “discovered” that drinking red wine will keep you fit. It helps the heart, the lungs, and protects against no less an enemy than cancer. And, let’s not forget, it makes us feel good — thereby enhancing our mental health. Beer offers that feature as well — the more of it you drink, the happier you get. Beyond that, it lowers cholesterol, provides fiber, strengthen bones, and cures insomnia. Remember all those times you passed out drunk? Of course you don’t, but the point is you slept like a baby.

There was even a time, before people started keeling over in droves from cancer of the lungs, mouth, and throat, that the health benefits of cigarettes were touted with a straight face. Relief from asthma, hay fever, bad breath, sore throats (to say nothing of the mental health benefits of feeling good) were among the many upsides of smoking. The more you inhaled the better!

This is all bullshit, of course. It’s candy, it’s booze, it’s burning vegetation, and it’s bad for us. In large amounts, they will kill us. Still, I can feel the wishful thinking struggling for attention. Any excuse, right? It wants to focus on the good news — and keep on doing what feels good.

We are led, I’m afraid, to some unpleasant conclusions. It is my belief that stupidity is an integral part of the human condition, including mine. Stupidity, when mixed with optimism, can have unhealthy, even deadly consequences. Optimism, therefore, is lethal. Q.E.D.

Pessimism is deadly too, of course, because we’re screwed no matter what we do. That’s what Uncle Downer always says, anyway.
Good and Stupid
I believe that people are essentially good. If I didn’t, I’d have trouble getting up in the morning. Experience has taught me, however, that most people are idiots. That makes me want to turn over and go back to sleep.

We’ll have to get up eventually, though. The day is out there waiting for us. And once we’ve had that first cup of coffee, it will be easier to accept that it is possible to be both good and an idiot at the same time. In fact, this might even be the central paradox of human existence, so we’ll just have to live with it.

After a second cup, we can also admit that the wise can also be idiots, and that even the best among us can turn mean-spirited. It is possible, then, that there might be times when everyone will be mean and stupid all at once.

More coffee, anyone?
Unrequited
I love
My technology
Honest I do
I deserves
To be vaunted
For working so hard
At such lightning speeds
To fill all the needs
I never knew
I wanted

I love
My technology
Honest I do
For enriching
My me time
And saving
My labor
(By taking my job)
But that’s cool
‘Cause I dig
All this free time

I love
My technology
Honest I do
But despite
All that service
It still
Makes me nervous
That it cares
Not a whit
About me
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No "new normal" for me, this shit ain't normal.
~ MS, Truckee