Optimism, Pessimism, Hope and Expectations

Optimism, Pessimism, Hope and Expectations

I’d like to share with you some thoughts of mine—I should say “opinions”—about optimism, pessimism, hope, and expectations. And maybe we can throw in vow—no, I think that’s a whole other subject.

So, I’m not very optimistic. And I’m not very pessimistic. I have a lot of hope, and hardly any expectations. Expectations pop up all the time. And I have to admit that even though I feel we shouldn’t have expectations, I have them all the time. And one of the signs of having expectations is that I get frustrated. I think expectations inevitably lead to frustration.

I define hope as basically hoping that something will happen, therefore working as hard as I can to make that thing happen. And having goals—for example, when I started to work in Yonkers and homelessness, I said, “we’re gonna end homelessness.” That was my hope—in Yonkers, in Westchester. That was my hope. But I had no expectation—therefore, I wasn’t frustrated—although we did reduce homelessness by 75 percent over the years. But we worked as hard as we could, and what happened is what happened.

It reminds of a time when we were working in the Middle East. And many groups were working in the Middle East. And there was a period around the year 2000 where everybody thought there would be peace. It was so close. Between the Israelis and the Palestinians—it was so close. And then, it all fell apart. And there were so many different groups working for peace—both on the Palestinian side and the Israeli side. And most of those groups fell apart. And they fell apart because of frustration. Their expectation was so high. And it didn’t happen. And the frustration became unbearable, and the groups fell apart. Those groups that continued, in my opinion, basically were working for peace because that’s what you should do. They didn’t have any expectations, even though it was so close. They had a lot of hope. And they worked very hard. But because there were no expectations, there were minimal frustrations. And they could continue working.

So that leads me to optimism and pessimism. I tend to—in my opinion—I do fairly good at leading my life based on what is happening.  That is, I’m not optimistic that something’s going to occur. And I’m not pessimistic that it won’t occur. I feel optimism and pessimism in a way is like expectations. It creates frustration.

I try to live according to the three tenets of the Zen Peacemakers. That is, to approach everything without any—without holding on to any idea of what should happen, or what might happen, or in that way. And to try to bear witness to what’s going on. That is to be in the moment—to try to be in the moment.  And then let whatever comes up come up.

So, no optimism, no pessimism, just being here now—do the best I can. That’s my opinion, man.

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4/18/2014