Boingboing has the picture above in a post today showing just how many people have supposedly died (in all known history) and how many are alive.
I know that their post was probably not intended to be philosophical or anything like that, but it made me think nonetheless. You see, I have a hard time understanding pessimists. Maybe if you are very sick, or very poor, then I can understand it. But I am talking about this dense, widespread pessimism that you see all around us. People who have jobs, families, health, and live in the best of all possible times throughout our brief human history.
I’ve talked about this before. I really think this stupid pessimism is dangerous, but yet what bothers me the most is that I honestly cannot understand how people can go through life being like that.
I just finished reading Makers, by Cory Doctorow. This is a cool book, full of crazy and insightful ideas about how the future could look like and how entrepreneurs could react to it. But many times during the book I almost gave up on it. Even worse, now that I have muddled through all its 416 pages I feel like I simply wasted my time reading it.
Why? Because the book is polluted throughout with this underlining pessimism. No matter what the situation is, no matter what is the choice made by a character, Doctorow seems to end each chapter with a “you see, life is horrible” thought.
So much so, that at some points I was not sure whether he was doing this on purpose to justify the utterly miserable life his characters lived, or if he was simply reflecting his own beliefs and could not get away from his own ideology.
In the end, that is what makes his book so not enjoyable. How can you believe that people who would live to invent and create new things could be such a depressing and unhappy bunch?
My worst fear is to be unfair about something. Every time I get mad at someone for being a pessimist, I try hard to think why I am the way I am. Is it because I am lucky? Is it because I am trying to escape from reality? Am I too dumb? Am I too smart?
Then I realize that this kind of thinking is probably what makes people pessimists in the first place. No life is perfect. I have had bad things happening to me so many times. I lost so many loved ones too soon. I was fired, I got sick, I had times when I had no money. I totally understand that there are a lot of people who are smarter than me. I also understand that many of my problems only exist because of the way I am.
It is a never ending torture if you keep second guessing your life. Maybe the key really is attitude. Here is one quote that my wife loves from Charles Swindoll:
“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes.”
I hope all of you who are fortunate enough to be part of that red little circle of the picture above will take your gift of life and enjoy it. Happy new year!