Matt Pearl

You can’t put a value upon optimism It is absolutely the currency of good will in an otherwise bleak world.

Your optimism might be rooted in faith, or maybe just in your natural demeanor. I’ll take as much of it as I can get in any form.

Optimism is the point of view that an individual (or a society) may adopt in the effort to turn our individual (or collective) dread, fear and pain into hope. When you express optimism, expect some folks to raise their eyebrows, shake their heads and attempt to school you on reality. Your critics, of course, will claim to have a better handle on reality than you, they will charge that it is negligent, if not downright irresponsible to walk around seeing half-full glasses and sunshine peeking through clouds.

Ignore them. You and I are different kinds of optimists.

We know that a half-full glass is also half-empty. We just know that we can’t drink the empty half, so we wonder why anyone would focus upon it rather than the half full.

Pessimism frustrates me, but the worst pessimist I ever met was me, or at least a part of me – the part that causes me to dread tomorrow rather than to welcome it, that part of my mind that sees despair, hunger, toil and pain and believes that these are the true markers of our experience.

Well, the problems of the earth are well documented. You won’t ever have to go far to find someone else ready to commiserate with you. When that part of me comes to the surface, and I choose to fix my eyes upon the negative and to therefore ignore the positive, I get just plain frustrated with myself.

There’s so much talk about putting 2020 behind us and I understand it. The year has been a difficult one, spurred on by this virus. COVID-19 has infected so many folks in this nation and in this world, but its chief target has been our political system, where our public servants have missed no opportunity to use the deaths of thousands to create political leverage and to stir the pot of American’s divided population. So, where’s the optimism?

It is here: that we endure. We are moving forward in this society without people that we loved due to this virus: but we are tasked with continuing that American promise. There is no surrender here. Is it optimistic to look into the future and see more disease, more political unrest and more general turmoil? Perhaps not.

But my great optimism rests not upon the challenges we will face, but in the reason we must face them. A great people, a great nation must overcome its worldly obstacles in order to build its legend. America is facing great challenges, for sure, but we emerge from each test – at least historically – stronger and more capable of facing the next.

It’s little comfort to those whose lives have been devastated by this disease for me to say that things happen for a reason, so I won’t. What I will say is that, generally, we should be able to look back at our past challenges and to better understand how our former problems helped to build our existing strengths. That is my optimism, friends: since we cannot prevent troubles from arising, we must fortify ourselves against the storm. The generations that follow will be built upon our strengths, and they will owe their existence to our labors and sacrifices. 

So yes, 2020 is nearly behind us, and I hope I don’t sound pessimistic if I tell you that it is my belief that 2021 will hold many of the same challenges we have faced this year. What will we do, in light of the fact that we cannot keep the problems from surfacing?

We can believe that for good times to come tomorrow, you and I must be staunchly – stubbornly – committed to fighting together against the darkness today.

Matt Pearl owns and operates newspapers in King City, Albany and Grant City.