Naïve Optimism?

23Jun07

It seems I am continually urged to write after reading articles in the paper. This instalment is in regards to the front-page article by Leah McLaren discussing the recent “craze” centered on the idea of happiness in the public consciousness.

She delves into the backlash on happiness, “If I often feel annoyed with the state of the world, there is a reason: The state of the world is often annoying. But maybe you’ve been too busy channelling positive energy to notice.”

Her wry take on the whole issue was something that stood out immediately. How can someone so cynical justly critique happiness you aks? Well she actually points out that pessimistic traits can go hand in hand with happiness, “It puts me squarely into the category of defensive pessimist, which is defined as “a person who thinks through worst-case scenarios and uses anxiety to motivate and carry out effective actions.””

She later touches on the reasons behind the recent happiness hype. She notes that a lot of countries don’t have words to describe the state of being happy. This draws attention to the reality of living in an affluent society: we are never satisfied. We always want more.

Beside this and other things, our increased desire to be happy might also be a symptom of the commodification of happiness. It has become another product to buy and sell. With numerous products and a newly coined “happiness industry”, a happiness economy can’t be far behind.

For brevity’s sake this is what I took from the piece:
We need to stop trying to be happy, it is only making us unhappy. Instead of trying to be something we aren’t, we need to find happiness in what we are.

This may be naively optimistic, however it is my outlook on the subject. As a twenty-one year old I see so much promise and possibility in the world that it is hard to say that anything is impossible.

I actually think that the definition of a defensive pessimist, one who “uses anxiety to motivate and carry out effective actions” isn’t so much the description of a pessimist but rather an optimist: one who can see the glass half full, even when it’s half empty.

Could this be my youthful naïveté or is this more common than I thought? Let me know, either way I will still be happy.

photo: tookie

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2 Responses to “Naïve Optimism?”

  1. 1 Tasha

    Hey! Good to see that that piece got others thinking. I was pretty impressed with it — I felt that it really hit home and I imagine it did for many others, too. Obviously, I’ve already written about my own feelings about the pressure to be happy so I won’t go into it here. I just wanted to say hi!

  2. 2 nlarcher

    hi too, thanks for visiting!


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