Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Optimism for the meditator

Tonight in ongoing class, we talked about the relationship between optimism and meditative practice including what's valuable about optimism and also how it can be misused. The topic has a lot more complexity to it than I have often assumed. Here's something I think is helpful (although there is a lot more to the subject than this):

The world we live in is a world of mingled good and evil. Whether it is chiefly good or chiefly bad depends on how we take it. To look at the world in such a way as to emphasize the evil is the art of pessimism. To look at it in such a way as to bring out the good, and throw the evil into the background, is the art of optimism. The facts are the same in either case. It is simply a question of perspective and emphasis.

-- William Dewitt Hyde


  1. Anonymous12:51 PM

    It seems to be that "the world" itself is neutral and that it is humankinds'actions which are good or evil, and which thus determine the state of the world at any given time.

    I like that the Dalai Lama says he has reason to feel optimistic, although to me, the evidence often suggests otherwise.

    annie c

  2. Sounds like a fascinating discussion. I wish I'd been there.

  3. Reminds me of what Gerald May says in his book The Dark Night of the Soul, that is, that he has given up trying to decide whether something that happens is good or bad. One example he gives is that when he got cancer, he considered it bad. But then when he received so much loving care because of his illness, he then changed his mind. My own feeling is that with God's grace, good can ultimately come from any situation, it just may take a long time.


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