The Armchair Philosopher
has some questions
First: Apologies to the real philosopher out there who’s reading this.
Second: At 45, I feel like sophomoric thinking just keeps me young, so I’m rolling with it.
In other words, today I’m wondering: Is optimism naive? Does it serve a purpose? I’m familiar with the argument about faith—that having faith makes sense as a kind of “hedge your bet” proposition (if God’s out there, you might as well believe because belief is requisite for meeting God, and if he’s not out there, no harm, no foul, minus the crushing disappointment of finding out you really are on your own in the calamity of your life). But outside the context of religious faith, is there value in thinking the best is yet to come? That possibility is viable? Our president-elect campaigned on possibility. On hope. There’s tons of studies out there that sustain the benefits (emotional and physical) of a positive outlook. And now that my daughter is consumed with “what if” statements that never end well (what if I break my leg and a monster eats my head and I miss dinner?), I always question her default to a bad outcome. What if you eat all your dinner and love it so much? I say. In these moments, she tends to look at me darkly. So why do I challenge her? What’s wrong with embracing doom? Because it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy (is it?). Because it just brings other people down? Because of the serotonin kick? Skirting around the edges of this inquiry may be the question of whether depression is okay (it’s not), except that depression isn’t the opposite of optimism. You can be perfectly fine and not be an optimist. Which brings me back to the original question, sort of: should I strive to be more optimistic? Should you? Tell me why.