April 12th, 2010

Eye of Agammotto

Feed Your Head: Self-Fulfilling

I need to revisit the first post I made under the "Feed Your Head" tag:

Pessimism is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
So is optimism.

-- distilled from Robert Anton Wilson,
"Ten Good Reasons to Get Out of Bed in the Morning".

I need to put this up over my desk, so it's the first thing I see every morning.

The difficulty, alas, is that while I believe this—and that, in itself, suggests a buried core of optimism—I've lost the knack of thinking optimistically.

Pessimism is insidious. Pessimism is easier. Pessimism is lazy thinking to justify lazy (in)action.

The "deadly sin" of Sloth? In early Church, it used to be two sins: "Despair" and "Apathy".

Like I said, though, it's insidious. It sneaks into your thoughts, and takes root. I think I've worked past the worst of the clinical depression, but—you know, it's like a long-term physical illness or injury. Just because you're healed doesn't mean you're back in shape. That broken leg ain't gonna be running marathons right off. You've got to work it back into shape, slowly and steadily, doing routine, repetitive tasks that reinforce the atrophied tendons and muscles—or habits and attitudes, to step back from the metaphor a little.

I need to work myself back into optimism, by pushing myself to keep up with optimistic tasks, and keeping sight of my goals—and not immediately giving up when I don't make the finish line.

Of course, part of that is convincing myself that those daily, repetitive tasks, that mental exercise of Accomplishing Something Useful And Productive Every Day, actually will pay off, both in terms of tangible goals and intangible attitudes.

And that, my friends, is the first and most important shard of optimism I need to grasp.

*I think that Unca Bucky said something to this effect, as well as Unca Bob.

Feed Your Head: A Parable

I'm sure we've all heard a variation of this one (most likely expressed as an ethnic joke):

Once upon a time, Jack decided to leave his tiny village and seek his fortune in the Big City, twenty leagues away.

Jack departed in good spirits, but it was a long road, and a tiring one. Finally, he asked a farmer in his field how much farther the Big City still lay."

"Ten leagues, young lad," the farmer replied, leaning on his plough.

"Ten leagues," cried Jack, "Ten leagues! But I have come so far already—and I can go no farther."

And with that, he turned around and returned home to his tiny village, discouraged and exhausted.

A year and a day passed, and again, Jack decided it was time to seek his fortune in the Big City once more. Again, ten leagues along the road, he saw the same farmer in his field, but this time, he fought past his fatigue and despair and pressed on.

Finally, he rested, leaning against a sign by the side of the road. He ate the bread and cheese he'd packed, and felt refreshed and full of vigor—until he looked up and read the sign.

Big City, it read, Five Leagues.

"Five leagues," cried Jack, "Five leagues! But I have come so far already—and I can go no farther."

And with that, he turned around and returned home to his tiny village, five leagues behind him and ten more, never to venture into the Wide World again.

This is a parable.