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Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future?

April 19th, 2013

Do you find yourself trying to decide on an opinion or feeling about the future and find it hard to come down on one side or the other? I’ve tried for ages to get a sense of the ‘state of the world’ and the way it is heading. Now I’ve come to the conclusion that ambivalent feelings are perfectly natural…perhaps that’s why OTOH is a popular acronym. Here’s an excerpt from an interview I had with the splendid Beetroot Books – the green alternative to Amazon:

Society does seem to be changing as the collective realisation of where we are now increasingly triggers positive action. Are you optimistic that there’ll be enough momentum to steer us voluntarily towards a more harmonious relationship with each other and Earth? Has the current paradigm run its course?

I’m very optimistic and I’m very pessimistic about the future. I have spent years trying to decide which of these feelings is the right one, but I have come to the conclusion that there are certain questions that naturally evoke an ambivalent response, and that rather than trying to reject one in favour of the other, I need to accept both.

On the one hand I see the global awakening that is occurring, the thousands of fantastic projects that are being born (Paul Hawken in ‘Blessed Unrest’ is good on this), and the incredible new inventions that suggest we really can turn things around. And on the other hand I see the mass extinction of species that is occurring, I see war, starvation and the destruction of the Earth continuing unabated, and I can see nothing but a bleak future for our grandchildren.

Somehow I have to hold both those feelings in my mind, for to focus only on the positive seems like naïve denial, and to focus only on the negative is just a recipe for unhappiness and renders me less able to be of any use in the world.

It’s in response to this question that I believe a spiritual path can be of real value. We all need inspiration, a sense of meaning, nourishment, connection, and support on our journey through life. If we are to give of our best we need these things, and it’s the job of a spiritual way, and of spiritual leaders and teachings, to offer these things.

If we are able to plug into this flow of meaning and encouragement, we can ride the waves of hope and despair in relation to the future, and as a result be of more use to ourselves and those around us.

Read interview

15 Responses to “Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future?”

  1. I was a young man in the 60’s a great music scene, the hippy revolution was coming into it’s own, peace and love, I must say, there was allot of hope for the future, we all had our dreams, then slowly I saw the cracks appearing, underneath the peace and love, I saw people ripping other people off, for dope, I saw affairs between groups, and people really getting hurt, under this veneer of peace and love, was the same old human lower states being acted out, The positive aspect could not be sustained. and directed towards great good. at that point I dipped out, when I look back at my life, I see all that has happened was circles within circles just repeating them selves, going through the same pattern, what ever the movement, all starts off positive, and ends up corrupted, I see this pattern being played out in the communities, and the world, and in some aspects of the pagan community. So what is the problem, I can only speak from my own experience, we have forgotten the shadow side of our being, in wanting to achieve something good and lasting, we rush forward full of enthusiasm, we leave the shadow side orphaned/neglected, we feel by pushing it aside, we will not be troubled by the inner things that we don’t like or don;t want to face. so without going on with the psychology of this, I am not a psychologist, just an observer of my own pit falls. we have to get to know our inner darkness and inner light, and our actions have to start with us, then move outwards, we can see the effect this would have on us as individuals, our community, and global community, it would be stable and lasting, a journey of constant coming back to our central selves, checking and re balancing yourself, of course not easy, but extremely worthwhile and life changing for our selves, others, and the planet.

  2. I agree with John’s point about balance, in which case your (and my) dual-sided feelings re: the future are healthy, I believe. I tend to be an “infernal” optimist, but there’s a realist co-existing with that optimism. I believe we can turn things — if not around, then maybe at least far enough to give future generations some positive momentum, though the cost of our self-neglect and earth-neglect and of the imbalances that pervade our lives has already been so high (as this week in the news has so vividly and sadly reminded us here in the States).

  3. I too am by temperament and inclination an optimist, and I know exactly what you mean John about the shadow side being orphaned and then corruption occurring. That’s the trouble with what I guess you could call ‘naive optimism’ which ignores the more difficult darker sides of human nature and the problems we face. A sort of ‘realistic optimism’ or optimism tempered with a dose of skeptical pessimism that no longer wears rose-tinted glasses is perhaps what is needed. As you say Mel, the sad current events in the US show us how much we need balance and harmony in our world, and how the lack of it is sometimes painfully obvious.

  4. I see small positive changes close to home such as a successful community garden and an upsurgence of small arts festivals and events- some people seem to be regaining their connection with the land and personal inspiration. Yet there’s the struggle for so many people to find jobs. An unnamed ‘tramp’ dies beneath a bridge.

    It seems there is alot of hope and despair, perhaps people are creating hope from despair…

    This is the picture I get locally without looking at national / worldwide affairs.

  5. I am definitely a glass half full person, and having said that I guess that is pretty much how I approach things day to day. My studies with OBOD brought me to a comfortable place of knowing that like the seasons, great light and great darkness come and go, and I think the balance is in the movement,and the pause. Things grow and decay, that is the way of life and the recycling of the energy of life, and it is reflected in the way we interact with situations and people. Those situations we see and experience as negative move us on, away, and help us define our path. Those things teach us lessons. And we learn from our own negative actions as well. I think peace and harmony come at particular times but without decay, there will be no regeneration. I love life even though it can sometimes stress me to the max, thats part of it.

    • So beautifully put Carole, I could have written it myself although as yet I havn’t studied with OBOD.
      Life in all forms is there to cherish, although, there will always be dark times but if we concentrate our energy in positive ways via personal/local enviroment or worldly matters, this beautiful planet will be in a better place.x

  6. Good interview and thoughtful comments all. And thank you for introducing us to Beetroot Books!

  7. In my heart, I am an optimist, as I feel that the universe is unfolding exactly as it is supposed to be. In my head, I see one disaster after another continuing. I am reminded that the world of humans has always been in trouble — all the way back to being eaten by cave bears and saber toothed tigers. We have such marvelous technology that could be used to benefit the earth and human-kind, but that technology is often used to destroy (think genetically modified anything). Where is the wisdom to know the difference? The wisdom resides in the common people, who are increasingly joining together to stand against greed and corruption and the destruction of the Earth. Love of Nature and each other is strong enough to overcome greed and hate. Will there be disasters? There have always been disasters. And when enough disasters occur, the common people will finally say ‘enough is enough’, and will put a stop to the destruction. Will it happen in time to save the Earth? The Earth will be fine with or without us. The question is whether people will be here to see the answer. I am optimistic that I may live to see that turning point, as it is coming soon. Just as it should.
    Pob bendith.

    • According to Mark Borax, Soul Level Astrologer, Aquarius (my birth sign) holds within their genetic code the blueprint for the evolution of mankind. That’s why we look at situations and say, “This is not the way it’s supposed to be!” When I learned this (only a few months ago) my whole life fell into place…a life cycle (well several, apparently) of crash-and-burn patterns because of facing mankind at its worst. And yet, some of us never really give up hope. I am one. Is it being naive? Perhaps. But perhaps not. It is all a matter of the balance of energies at play in the world…for very, very long the energies have been negative. The media and even advocacy groups paint the pictures that they want in order to spin the truth to their advantage. I’m not saying that things aren’t bad, but sometimes they aren’t what they are being made out to be. I know my thoughts are capable of manifesting whatever I put my energy into — I choose to focus on love with wisdom to the extent I am able, and never to give up hope that the balance is indeed shifting towards the positive end of the pole.

  8. Take for example Fire. Fire can burn you to death yet, the symbol of Fire in the Celtic community is Brighid, Goddess who represents Healing and Inspiration. Beautiful, isn’t it ?

  9. I have been mulling this over in the context of humanitarianism and aid work. For some (such as David Rieff, whose book I am currently reading), optimism represents a denial of unpalatable truths. I would counter that by saying that optimism is instead a belief that the bad things, those unpalatable truths, do not negate the good that can also be found. I am by instinct an optimist, but my intellectual position is always more ambivalent; as with everything, there is a balance to be found, and balance is not necessarily the same thing as justice.

  10. Yes I think if one is optimistic by temperament or instinct then it is hard to be totally pessimistic. And also the ability to tolerate ambiguity is a mark of psychological resilience, creativity and successful leadership. An intolerance of ambiguity is found in the classic ‘Authoritarian personality’!

  11. I realize that this is an older thread, but ever since it was posted, I have thought about responding again. Some time ago, I came upon the YouTube video clip of a Paul Hawken presentation, and knew that this was an answer to this question. This is the type of information that is like a soothing balm to our collective wounded hearts If your are inspired by the message, then there is no reason not to be positive. I hope you find it as uplifting as I did.
    (You may have to copy and paste into your browser, as I don’t know if the hyperlink will take.)
    Pob bendith.

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