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Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Glass is Half Full

but There’s a Hair in it: Examining Optimism

Some people look at a glass and say it is half empty while others say that it is half full. I look at it and say, “I’m not going to pay for this beer that I just drank; the glass has a chip in it and it’s dirty.” Who is the optimist now? Notice how I took two negatives, a chipped and allegedly dirty glass, and turned them into a positive: a free beer. That, my friend, is optimism—optimism and an almost complete lack of personal dignity.

Isn’t life super swell?
Much of the behavior that we consider to be optimistic or upbeat is really nothing more than a complete lack of dignity and brain cells. Take morning television talk show hosts. A lot of viewers probably think that anyone that happy and smiley so early in the morning must be incredibly upbeat and optimistic. Should someone really be so perky while they read a news report about people dying in a mine explosion? Is it appropriate to have that same “Gosh, isn’t it super to be alive” attitude when talking about the war in Iraq as when you’re looking at pictures of the new baby panda at the zoo? I guess that for talk show hosts life is just words on a teleprompter. Let’s call it the Kathy Lee Gifford school of journalism where the key to all of life’s troubles is a trip to the mall or the nail salon. “Today 100,000 people were killed in ethnic fighting in the Sudan. Time to go on a Carnival Cruise®!”

If life gives you lemons, make lemonade!
It isn’t possible to be more upbeat than motivational speakers—that’s their job. It’s like everything they say needs to have an exclamation point tacked on to the end. You can do it! Try harder! Anything is possible! That shit makes me want to puke. It reminds me of the homos at the gym who scream at each other to lift more weight. To these people, the gym rats and the loud-mouth motivational speakers, I say, “Just do your bench press and live out your ridiculous and pointless lives and shut up. Some of us are trying to read.”

I’d like to be the anti-motivational speaker and see how that works for people. To begin with I would lecture people on the futility of dieting. I would preach that sometimes quitting is the smart move. I would sprinkle my talks with news items showing man’s inhumanity to man and the unbelievable injustices in the world. I would show countless testimonials of people who had failed miserably in spite of their eternal optimism and remarkable diligence. I would tell stories of people who had been knocked down and who picked themselves right back up, only to be run over by a bus at the next corner. We pride ourselves on our competitiveness. In competition most people fail—just ask anyone who happens to be a Seattle Mariners fan. I have something to say to those people who exclaim, “We’re all winners!” If your team doesn’t come out on top just try collecting money from the football pool at work.

We should prepare people for failure. I don’t think people need to be prepared for winning. Most people dream of it their entire lives. As a little kid I never remember standing at the free throw line imagining missing the last shot in the big game. When I was in grade school I always fantasized that I would make the final shot and then I’d do a line of coke off of a cheerleader’s butt and then after a night of drunken revelry, I’d get arrested for a DWI. I may have had to put my fantasy on hold while I threw up five or six air balls, but eventually I always won the big game and had my night of debauchery. If there is a little kid out there who day dreams about fucking up the big game, I want to meet him. I wasn’t that original growing up.

Everyone can handle success, teaching people to fail takes real talent. That’s why I have developed the Leftbanker Failure Counseling Strategies. Not only can I help assuage your grief about totally blowing that last shot, I can make all of the losers like me feel better about not even making the team. Find comfort in these words:

“Hey, at least you tried. A little,”

“Fuck it. Just quit. You’ve got nothing to prove.”

“She must be a lesbian if she doesn’t want to go out with you. What other reason could there be?”

“A winner never quits and a quitter can get a partial refund on that gym membership you never use.”

“You gotta die of something. Am I right?”

“Sure, you could stop drinking or you could finally accept yourself for the drunk that you are. Mister judgmental.”

I don’t know about you but I feel better about myself already.

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