The Wakeup Call



The fundamental nature of the optimist is, as is for all humans, a complex equation. We are all programmed to behave in a certain way. But how we respond is significantly affected by our engagement with our environments. That cycle helps establish patterns which thoroughly affect and, more often, than not, eventually predict our responses. And though the fundamental equation is fixed, it incorporates a vital and necessary element —  it breathes. And each breathe contains the element of the unknown, the unpredictable. Why? Because we are human. And though the equation is fixed, and thereby secure, and is never fully eradicated, it shifts, moves, evolves, develops  — just as humans do — and is often irrevocably altered. Perhaps.

It may be that the code for an optimist is embedded in their DNA, indeed, probably is — as all other traits — and emerges at the moment of birth. It also may be that part of the code for the optimism also contains the opposite trait — cynicism. But it is highly unlikely that either of those traits —  as with so many others — are expressed the moment the infant travels through the birth canal and takes its first breath. And yet, there it is already activated at birth. 

The needs of infants are simple: they require nurturing, nourishment, touch and love. How those needs are fulfilled influence and determine one of the most vital characteristics of all humans — bonding. And that effect is immediate, though not immediately expressed. Instead, it lies dormant, until it’s ready to manifest itself, which is not long afterwards. But it is highly unlikely that infants exhibit cynicism as soon as they emerge from the birth canal and take their first breath — not just cynicism but optimism — and all of the traits encoded and embedded in their DNA. 

And yet the evolution from optimism to cynicism is as natural as the air we breathe. And though the seed does not perish, once you’ve reached that threshold, crossed it, moved beyond it, you must often regress before you can reach and find the seed, the source. And so, you return to the labyrinth of many doors, without knowing which door is the right one, the one that fits the key you carry. 

It’s not the imperfection of humans that is so troubling, for the optimist accepts the premise that humans are inherently flawed. Rather it is the extent of those flaws, their expression, their dimension, their depth, their width, that overwhelms the optimist. It is the noose around the neck that keeps squeezing until it’s almost unbearable, but not quite enough — hopefully — and once that noose loosens and expands, before balanced is restored, the cynic plunges, and hits the floor, dazed and weak, but still breathing, and gradually regains the strength to stand upright and start the cycle all over again.