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Volume XIV - The Smiling Forehead

Part II - The Deeper Side of Life

Chapter IX
Optimism and Pessimism

OPTIMISM REPRESENTS a spontaneous flow of love; optimism also represents trust in love. This shows that it is love, trusting love which is optimism. Pessimism comes from disappointment, from a bad impression which is there of some hindrance in the past. Optimism gives a hopeful attitude in life, whereas by pessimism one sees darkness on one's path. No doubt sometimes pessimism shows conscientiousness and cleverness – and pessimism also shows experience. But in point of fact can we ever be conscientious enough if we only think what difficulties we have before us in our life? It is trust which solves the problems in the end. Very often the wise have seen that cleverness does not reach far; it goes a certain distance and there it stands, for cleverness is a knowledge which belongs to the earth. As to experience – what is man's experience? One is only proud of one's experience in life as long as one has not seen how vast the world is. In every line of work and thought no mountain of experience is needed, and the further man goes in experience the less he realizes that he has none.

The psychological effect of optimism is such that it helps to bring success, for it is by the optimistic spirit that God has created the world. Optimism therefore comes from God, and pessimism is born out of the heart of man. From what little experience of life he has man feels, 'This will not be done, that will not succeed, this will not go, that will not come right'. For the optimistic one, if things will not come right in the end, it does not matter; he will take his chance. And what is life? Life is an opportunity. To the optimistic person the opportunity is a promise, and for the pessimistic person this opportunity is lost. It is not that the Creator makes man lose it, but it is man who withdraws himself from the possibility of seizing the opportunity.

Many in this world prolong their illness by giving a pessimistic thought to it. Mostly you will find that for those who have suffered for many years from a certain illness their illness becomes so real that its absence seems unnatural. They believe this illness to be their nature and its absence something they do not know. In this way they keep the illness in themselves. Then there are pessimistic people who think that misery is their share in life, that they are born to be wretched and cannot be anything else but unhappy, that heaven and earth are against them. In fact they – and nobody else – are against themselves, they themselves are their own misery and their pessimism is their misfortune.

Man's life depends on what he concentrates upon. If he concentrates upon misery he cannot but be miserable. If he has a certain habit or a certain nature of which he does not approve, he thinks he is helpless before it because it is his nature, his own. Nothing is man's nature, except that which he makes for himself. As the whole of nature is made by God, so the nature of each individual is made by himself. As the Almighty has the power to change His nature, so the individual is capable of changing his nature – if only he knew how. Among all the creatures of this world man is most entitled to be optimistic, for man represents the nature of God on earth: God as judge, as Creator and as the Master of all His creation. So is man master of his own life, master of his affairs – if only he knew it.

A man with an optimistic view will help another who is drowning in the sea of fear or disappointment. A pessimist, on the contrary, if somebody comes to him who is ill or downhearted by the hardness of life, will pull that person down and let him sink to the depths with him. So on the side of the one there is life, on the side of the other there is death. The one climbs to the top of the mountain, the other goes to the depth of the earth. Is there any greater helper in one's sorrow, in misfortune, at moments when every situation in life seems dark, than that spirit of optimism which knows, 'All will be right'. Therefore it is no exaggeration if I say that the very Spirit of God comes to man's rescue in the form of the optimistic spirit.

It does not matter how hard a situation in life may be, however great the difficulties, they all can be fought, they all can be surmounted. But what matters is that his pessimistic spirit weighs a person down low, when he has already come to low waters. Death is preferable to being weighed down in misery by a pessimistic spirit. The greatest reward there can be in the world is the spirit of optimism, and the greatest punishment that can be given to man for his worst sins is the spirit of pessimism.

Verily, hopeful is the one who in the end will succeed.

checked 10-Nov-2006