Being a pessimist, an optimist, and both

Mon 19 – Sun 25 July 2021

I am trying different ways of structuring my blog and this week it dwells on the things during the last week that made me either a pessimist or an optimist. Though there are also many things that make me both at the same time.

I have realised that I often view life in terms of a spectrum: good vs bad, happy vs sad, etc. Last week’s blog (here) was a prime example. Viewing things in terms of pessimism and optimism is just another spectrum. But how else to look at things – isn’t everything in life on a spectrum? The only thing I can think that isn’t is politics. Here I would say it is more circular with the hard left and the hard right ultimately being the same authoritarian and anti-democratic tendency. I would welcome comments from readers on other ways you can judge things and make views without seeing things on a spectrum.

“If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.”

Henry Ford

Things last week that made me an optimist

Tech for Good

As I have stated previously, I believe it is possible that ‘tech will save us’ – if it is combined with major changes in human behaviour. Science and technology amaze me though perhaps it is more amazing that we live in times so dependent on these but with so few understanding them while so many deride them. I would definitely trust a scientist or technologist over a religious or new age fanatic.

I also believe there needs to be an alternative to capitalism and the dominance of the search for financial profit. Not-for-profit agencies (charities, social enterprises, co-operatives, etc) are an important part of that alternative. Thus I am so excited by the potential of Tech for Good – not-for-profit agencies getting better at using digital.

Continued last week with my colleagues at Thoughtworks in selecting applicants for our Social Change Lab to be interviewed. Should be able to let the fortunate ones know. And also start the process of booking people in to give feedback on their unsuccessful bids. Particularly so they can use this feedback to get better. Reminds me of when I was applying for jobs and not getting feedback so could not work out how to make improvements.

inter-connected tech

Exercise

Walking is my main exercise at the moment and it always makes me feel good and optimistic. Actually, I wonder if I should go on a walking holiday? However, slight fly in the ointment concerns my beloved gym. The health spa it is part of re-opened on Monday. But the new annual membership is £750! Too expensive for me to rejoin straight away. May wait and see if a special offer lower rate is offered at some point.

Personal Development

My belief in the ability of individuals to improve themselves has to make me an optimist. And I am really pleased with the personal development I am getting done. Work on the Duolingo app just about every day with the focus on German and Spanish. Plus a few sessions on the Mimo app to understand Python better.

Mini-breaks / being a nomad

Saturday, me and Dave did another (cheap) stay in a London hotel just to have a break from normal life and make it feel like a mini-holiday. Time away like this does make me feel good and more hopeful for the future. Particularly because it feeds my love of not being tied down and staying flexible. When I am free and on the move then I an optimist. But when I am tied down I am depressed and a pessimist.

We had some afternoon drinks, a lovely walk around the ever-wonderful Brompton Cemetery, and dinner at one of our favourite Turkish restaurants. We spent a lot of time thinking and talking about the future – future focus makes me feel good and be more of an optimist as I love to assume things will get better. I am really keen on us renting a place in Spain and spending 3 out of 6 months there as we can currently do post-Brexit. Quite nomad like.

walking feet

Things last week that made me a pessimist

Weight

If there was one single thing that could make me really happy, it would be to lose a significant amount of weight – say about a stone and a half. And what is the hardest thing for me to do at the moment beyond winning an Olympic gold medal? Yep, it’s losing that amount of weight.

Shows that tackling any addiction has to be a multi-pronged initiative that includes encouragement, support, punishment, and reward. Really not sure I can ever lose significant weight till I can take stress out of my life. And that feels almost impossible.

Details on my weight pattern here. I’m definitely stuck on a new normal of 13 and a half stone.

lose weight now

Art and Culture

This actually raises me up and makes me feel great. Either producing or experiencing art. But it made me a pessimist last week. As I said in my previous blog, I simply need to do more art and culture. And, again, I failed to find the time to do that last week. I had suggested I could make progress particularly by watching more movies. Did manage to catch up on a bit more of the Rainer Werner Fassbinder film ‘Fox and Friends’ but that was it.

Things that made me both

Sustainability

Last week was one of many super hot days with temperatures going over 30 degrees. Nights when the temperature was over 20 degrees. Then torrential stormy downpours over the weekend. The extremes that come from the climate change disaster and make for uncomfortable living.

I’m an optimist in that I take action to try and combat the climate crisis: appreciating and encouraging nature, reducing consumption, buying secondhand. But I am also a pessimist that I wonder if it is all too little and too late. Has irreversible damage been done and our efforts merely making an inevitable disaster slightly less worse if having any impact at all?

Death (flower)

Reading and Books

Reading always makes me feel great (unless it’s a bloody awful book). Last week I finished one great book and continued to read another great one. The former by Emily St John Mandel ‘The Glass House’, her follow up to the brilliant ‘Station Eleven’ (about a post-pandemic world; a book I must re-read at some point). Reading ‘The Glass House’ was partly a mistake as it sounded like the story of a relationship between 2 men but turns out Vincent can also be a woman’s name – who knew? An unexpectedly excellent novel about the inter-connected lives of people focused around the crash of a ponzi fraud in the 2008 financial crash.

The reason I feel a pessimist when I read is that simply sometimes the subject of the book and the story covers the worst aspects of humanity. Definitely so for my other unfinished reading book last week, ‘The Manningtree Witches’ by A.K. Blakemore. It is the true story of Matthew Hopkins, Witchhfinder General particularly told from the angle of the women involved in his first show trial. And it reveals not only sexism but also what comes from giving into religious dogma and the way women are the recipients of male and societal violence.

Don’t forget, you can see the list of books I have read here.

Free-dumb Day

I’m a pessimist as last Monday all legal restrictions to combat the pandemic were removed to be replaced with the suggestion people use their ‘common sense’. Surely it would have made more sense to remove the protective framework piece by piece to see what happens.

But I am also an optimist based on the the sensible reaction of so many people. Many still wearing masks in enclosed indoor spaces such as on public transport. Restores my faith in humanity and makes me an optimist of us moving on from this phase in history and making a fresh start one day.

Painting

The Olympics

I enjoy big sporting events, the way you can dip into them constantly. And we move from the European championships to the Olympics. Not fussed by the opening ceremony but you can’t help but be inspired by the different types of sporting events (I love skateboarding!) and cheering on the underdogs. But I feel for the Japanese people who didn’t want these games and are fearful of an influx of foreigners bringing covid. I am an optimist things will be OK but a pessimist that there may well be a disease surge plus an Olympics with no cheering crowds does feel sad.

Friends

Had a meeting with Jamie who I previously met when I visited Torremolinos. We were staying in the same hotel and he was talking about moving to live there. Turns out he did (lives in next door Benalmadena) and it was so useful to meet and catch up on how he did it. This is linked to my plan to spend more time in Spain and possibly even live there longer term.

But my overseas friendships are making me both a pessimist and an optimist as I am not sure when I will get out of this country to see people. Spoke to Philip again on Tuesday and I am absolutely gagging to visit Spain. And I know Dave is desperate to get back to his beloved Berlin. Will it come later this year? Too soon to say me thinks.

Family

Very, very sad news last week that one of my uncles died. Mum was so very sad. Things like that make me a pessimist in the sense that everything will come to an end one day. But in the meantime, there is the love the support of my family and Dave – this has to make me feel optimistic even when we argue. Some very good news that Dave’s mum’s scan has come back with no issues. Though my mum spent a lot of time complaining about the hot weather…

Only 3 things

The Week Ahead

  • Get the interview offer emails out for our Social Change Lab and start pencilling in feedback sessions. Plus line up some hopefully productive catch-ups with other people in the Tech for Good space.
  • Lots of walks between Dave’s and my place / mum’s. Plus need to think about what is going to replace my too expensive return to the gym.
  • Will try to finish ‘Fox and Friends’ then move onto a new film
  • Hope to finish ‘The Manningtree Witches’ and have started a great new book of short stories by the brilliant Ken Liu
  • Spend time with mum and Dave
  • See how the pandemic pans out from here….

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