What is optimism?

Someone asked me recently about being a dad, and here was my response.

I think my main goal is to help them really internalize the trick of finding the upside instead of the downside, with a healthy dose of old-fashioned American “if it’s broke, fix it.” I don’t think being an optimist means you just accept whatever life dishes out — optimist is not another word for victim.

Am I injecting a bit? Yes, I’m very sensitive to this issue of fundamental optimism vs. fundamental pessimism, crossed with active/passive approaches. Seems like time for an Indexed-like four quadrant map. Maybe I’ll draw one today.

My next thoughts on this optimism/pessimism dimension were a combination of ideas:

It’s in that realm where I think Buddhism doesn’t map onto American psychology as neatly as it does in other countries’ cultures. (Of course, I saw a documentary film on Burma/Myanmar recently that made the argument that the deep Buddhist culture of the people made them more (too!) accepting of such crappy conditions in their country. My friend, native-born but from NorCal, called BS on that.)

The movie “They Call It Myanmar” didn’t make this point explicitly, but it certainly focused on, by juxtaposition, “deep” Buddhism, guilt, acceptance, and apparent passivity.

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