On optimism

Back in November, I attended the Copenhagen Book Fair where Nadja and I were interviewed by Andrea Hejlskov about our project Borgerlyst. It was a brief talk about literature, activism and nature, which you can see here (it’s in Danish, though):

One of the questions that Andrea asked us was how we could be so optimistic when things continue to look so grim.

I answered that I believe that optimism is a choice. You can only be hopeful when you act. When you make things happen. I didn’t say so in the interview, but I’ve been very inspired by how John Seager answered the same question in The Conversation:

I’m a total optimist. I didn’t start out as one, I just ended up there because all the other options seemed unrewarding.

You know, they’ve done research on luck. They done experiments where they take two people with similar life experiences. and one thinks she’s very lucky, and the other thinks she isn’t. They’ve both had their ups and downs in life. And they would give them those little metal thingamajigs, the puzzles you try to untangle to see how long it would take them. Except they can’t. They give you one that literally won’t come apart. The unlucky one gives up after about 30 seconds. The lucky one just keeps trying. Because the lucky one just figures, ‘I know I can do this.’ And so, having an optimistic cast of mind, and thinking that way opens up doors that the other way doesn’t. And y’know… if I’m wrong, I’m wrong.

I learned a long time ago that nobody else seems to really care all that much what I think, so I might just as well think what gets me up in the morning, and that’s optimism.

I love that. I’m an optimist because all the other options seem so unrewarding.