Costa Rica beat Greece in the World Cup to reach the quarterfinals. I was rather pleased about this. The very fact that Costa Rica was in the match was itself remarkable, coming out on top of a group that had considered the country their whipping-boy going into the event. And who doesn’t love a Cinderella story, right on back to David and Goliath, itself probably based on the battle between Nestor and the giant Ereuthalion in the Iliad, which no doubt was pinched from other stories dating back to the dawn of humankind. We adore an underdog.
Anyway, my point is that I didn’t believe it would happen. First of all, after Costa Rica’s Oscar Duarte was sent off in the 66th minute, the team had to play a man down. They were clearly exhausted, and barely beating back a constant barrage of Greek balls in. It was tense, it was ugly, and I told my wife that a Greek goal was inevitable. She told me to be optimistic. I shook my head sadly at her naivety, her misguided faith. Poor woman, she just doesn’t understand.
Well, long story short, Costa Rica won in a penalty shootout after extra time. My wife had been right after all (as is generally the case), and I had once again shown my philosophical fraternity with the character Glum from the old cartoon ‘The Adventures of Gulliver’: “We’re doomed. We’ll never make it.”
When I’m on a beautiful beach, I tend to see the litter. When I would look down at the lovely seaside town in which we live, my eyes would catch on the unsightly crane that towered above the church. (It was taken down a couple of weeks ago when they completed renovations, much to my relief.) I generally see the good in individuals and the bad in humankind. This is a character flaw, I know.
But it’s a weakness that has always dogged me. I remember my mother becoming exasperated when I showed a disinclination to do something or go somewhere simply because I expected it to suck. I’ve always wanted to have a luminous, hopeful, lust-for-life kind of disposition, but that level of idealism seems to elude me. Don’t get me wrong, I am in no way gloomy or depressed – but I ain’t no ray of sunshine, either.
This is something I need to work on. Although it sounds like a motivational poster, it’s true that positive things happen to positive people, and that being pessimistic is not only a waste of time but is often a self-fulfilling prophecy. I know this. You know this. We all know this. It’s the purposeful putting of it into practice that’s the hard bit.
I think that instilling a sense of optimism in my kids is one of the most important accomplishments I can achieve. And, as I’ve written before, since telling your kids how to view the world is patently pointless, I’ll have to set an example of sheer enthusiasm and hopefulness. Who knows, if I act optimistic, I may actually become so.
Naw, probably not. But there’s great deal of wonder in this world, a great deal to be encouraged about, and all you have to possess is a willingness to see it.
And a pretty transparent optimism quiz you can take, just for fun.