I’ve occasionally contemplated whether I have a tendency to be pessimistic, since I often see the downside of things as well as the upside. After some thought I’ve concluded that I am, in most instances, simply pragmatic.
Pragmatism is a practical approach both to situations and problems, concentrating on facts rather than ideas or emotions. Instead of a Pollyannaville or Doomsville approach that pushes one towards unrealistic expectations of one sort or another, it’s a ‘hope for the best, plan for the worst’ outlook – an efficient, organised and utilitarian way of being that allows one to be ready for most eventualities.
Taking the inevitable glass half full / half empty dilemma as a point in case: from the perspective of a pragmatist, it’s never an all-or-nothing scenario: the glass is simply as full as it is – so either drink the contents or don’t. I find this very straight forward and, having made my choice (to drink or not), can simply get on with the next thing and leave the relatively pointless debate to those who feel more in invested in discussion than in outcomes.
Very probably with age everyone tends to become somewhat more pragmatic and less inclined to get bogged down in situations or endeavours that are unlikely to achieve results. This outlook should, however, not be confused with an inability to get excited at the prospect of Santa’s sack of toys (or some other anticipated event), with being immune to surprise or with an absence of idealism. It’s simply that a pragmatist is more inclined to try to identify and anticipate likely outcomes on the basis of probabilities and thus cope more efficiently with the vagaries of life.
I have started to question, though, whether a little of the wonder at the world around us might be lost when too large a dose of pragmatism is applied to every situation.
I think wonder is a necessary ingredient for pragmatism to function. Without a little dose of wonder or joy, pragmatism turns into a surly pessimism far too easily. Pragmatism is, in my opinion, a balancing act – and it needs wonder and joy to maintain. Humans are biologically wired to pay more attention to negative things than to positive things, because it helped us survive lions and cholera in our distant past. So we tend to pessimism if we don’t get regular doses of pure wonder and happiness. Ergo, pragmatism/realism isn’t actually possible without wonder.
That’s my opinion anyway 🙂
Today the blossoms on my cherry tree made me smile. Sensible-me noted that we’re unlikely to get any fruit setting (not cold enough in Perth). Even so, it’s a beautiful tree, whether or not we end up with cherries – I smiled all the way to work. Wonderfully pragmatic 🙂