Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Case for Optimism

Today it seems that cynicism is the new black, and optimism is nearly taboo. We take one look at the world, with its recessions, wars, scandals and crises, and proclaim "Anyone who sees this glass half full must be blind."

I'd beg to differ.

What I'm hoping to make with this blog is a case for optimism, specifically in our home county. While we Oakland-ites certainly have a laundry list of things to make even the sunniest disposition a little jaded — unemployment, government scandals, and those darn April snowflakes, to name a few — we've also got plenty to be positive about.

Spring has sprung, and our home towns offer bountiful opportunities to get outside and smell the daffodils. The Paint Creek Trail is starting to green up, and if you stand at the intersection of Ludlow and the trail, just outside of the Rochester Municipal park, and take a deep breath, it's like walking right into a bouquet.

And like spring flowers, new businesses are popping up around town. Did anyone else do a little dance in their car driving past the new Just Baked cupcake place in Royal Oak? No, just me? Okay … Well, anyway, I love the smell of commerce and frosting in the morning!

While I'm sure to be inviting threats of bodily harm by suggesting that the recession may even have a bright side to it, I'm going to do it anyway. Across the county (and the country for that matter), people are taking their economic futures into their hands in new, adventurous, creative ways. My dad's former General Motors coworker is now the proud owner of a Coldstone Creamery in Rochester. Scores of my recent college graduate friends have turned to sites like Etsy, which help you sell your hand-made creations online, to generate some extra cash. A family friend is making and selling paddleboards with his son. Sometimes the best creativity flows out of necessity.

In 1805, the city of Detroit burned to the ground. After the fire, the city established this motto: “Speramus Meliora; Resurget Cineribus,” meaning “We Hope For Better Things; It Shall Rise From the Ashes.”

Right now, many metro Detroiters look at their lives, their jobs, their families, and see a pile of ashes. I’m here to tell you that better things are on the horizon.

So go ahead, call me a rose-glasses-wearing, tree-hugging, naive hippie. In my opinion, optimism isn’t about being out of touch with reality. Optimism is taking a good hard look at reality and saying “How can I adjust my actions and attitude to get the best possible outcome for myself and those around me?”

And if you can’t do that, then you’re just a cynic. And the last thing the world needs is another cynic.


  1. Love it Erin! We can all use a dose of optimism!

  2. The Optimist vs. the Pessimist
    An optimist sees the best in the world, while a pessimist sees only the worst. An optimist finds the positive in the negative, and a pessimist can only find the negative in the positive.

    For example, an avid duck hunter was in the market for a new bird dog. His search ended when he found a dog that could actually walk on water to retrieve a duck. Shocked by his find, he was sure none of his friends would ever believe him.

    He decided to try to break the news to a friend of his, a pessimist by nature, and invited him to hunt with him and his new dog. As they waited by the shore, a flock of ducks flew by. they fired, and a duck fell. The dog responded and jumped into the water. The dog, however, did not sink but instead walked across the water to retrieve the bird, never getting more than his paws wet. This continued all day long; each time a duck fell, the dog walked across the surface of the water to retrieve it.

    The pessimist watched carefully, saw everything, but did not say a single word.

    On the drive home the hunter asked his friend, "Did you notice anything unusual about my new dog?" "I sure did," responded the pessimist. "He can't swim."