Saturday, February 13, 2010

pessimism, the answer to all my problems

I wake up in the morning and face death. It sits on my desk staring at me.

Forever cherished until we forget
Loren Tofiulu Niklaus Hopkins
1979 -?

My once and future grave stone, a sobering reminder that one day will be my last. It's like an existential google calender pop up reminder. Well, I must get onto that: getting busy living, that is, because I'm already busy dying.

Some people like to describe my condition as depressive realism i.e. seeing things as they really are (in so far as that is possible). Why remind myself of unpleasant inevitabilities, when there are a plethora of other, more uplifting stimuli, crying out for attention? "When a man knows he's to be hanged [or dead] in a fortnight, it focuses his mind wonderfully."I don't have a clear deadline yet, but I think I prefer it that way.

I've succeeded in deconstructing my reality, the question is how to proceed now that the rebuilding process has begun and my impending doom has a new found sense of finality (yes, this is a direct response to over smiley hand clappy people that occasionally cross my path). A story borrowed from truehoop:

Optimism is a critical survival tool, but only when it's balanced with realism. This concept is known as the Stockdale Paradox, named after Admiral James Stockdale, the highest-ranking American prisoner of war in Vietnam.

The idea was popularized by author Jim Collins in his best-selling book Good to Great. When Collins asked Stockdale to explain which American prisoners did not survive captivity in Vietnam, the admiral replied, "Oh, that's easy. The optimists."

Collins was perplexed, but Stockdale explained that the optimists "were the ones who said 'we're going to be out by Christmas.' And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go; and then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart."

Stockdale went on: "This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end - which you can never afford to lose - with discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be."

There will be no broken hearts this valentines day. For best results be as pragmatic as possible. I rest my case in peace.

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