dimanche, février 04, 2007

Optimism and the Morality of the Banana Skin

Do you think optimism is a matter of moral courage? Doing some online reading last night, I came across this thought-and have been pondering it on and off since. I'm spurred to think about meditate on this by the fact that my father, who is gravely ill, is not what one would call an optimistic man. Smart, yes. Well-read, of course. Although his temperament probably poses difficulties for his friends sometimes, he has loyal and profound friendships that go back to his early years as a professor at Brooklyn College. Oftentimes his skepticism about human motives could pose a real challenge to my late mother. She, though no fool, was willing to believe the best of people unless and until they proved themselves to be not worthy of her trust. I inherited that trusting disposition-which has been both a huge gift and perhaps a stumbling block. It certainly has not helped in the Internet dating world when I run into guys who display what might be kindly termed erratic behavior. A guy friend of mine was tougher, terming some of these characters "scoundrels and sleazeballs, scammers, phonies and mountebanks." (Mountebanks are quacks or charlatans-perhaps you can now find a way to use the word in conversation). I'm not so sure. I suppose there are folks who prey on others, but I tend to think the majority of the men and women who cause others pain in such Internet portals are simply confused, lonely and indecisive people-or people who can't overcome their genetic or environmental history. So is optimism truly a matter of moral courage-a decision one makes-or is it a genetic gift? Perhaps it is some of both. Optimism may be the courage to look at one's past and say-I accept the idea that I suffered from pain inflicted by parents or relatives who didn't know any better. Though there may be times when the wounds still bleed, I (or you) am going to work as hard as I can to be faithful in relationships, kind to those whom I stumble across, and an advocate for those who have few friends. We are all children of our genetic history. But as human beings with (relatively) free will, we have the God-given ability to make different choices-decisions that will influence our descendants. Ladies and gentlemen-are we going to be proactive and positive? Or are we going to stumble on that darned banana peel once more-and find somebody else to blame for dropping it?

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