The Best of All Possible Worlds

“The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds, and the pessimist fears this is true.”  James Branch Cabell

Which outlook do you prefer, that of the optimist or the pessimist?  I considered the benefits of having optimistic parents while listening to a friend deliver the eulogy for his ninety-one-year-old mom.  What I admired was his mom’s unquenchable desire for life.  She consistently pursued new interests, cultivated friendships, and found humor in everyday situations.

My friend’s mom also decided that parenting sometimes involved catching herself before saying “no” and considering how the word “yes” might help an adolescent drink from the spirit of life.  Since my friend is an opportunist, he used this for leverage when asking his mom if he and some friends could ride their bikes from Portland to San Francisco.  He was fifteen.  And she said “yes.”  It was a journey that still resonates with my friend forty-five years later, a span of time in which he has mirrored and passed along his mom’s zest for life.

Eighteen years ago, after my father died of cancer, I wrote his eulogy.  I remember the feeling of absolute devastation as I stared at the blank screen of my computer trying to find a way to express how much he meant to me.  And then the words started to flow.  And soon I realized that the recounting of a life well lived was an invitation to follow the same course.

Do you believe we live in the best of all possible worlds?  I doubt even the greatest optimist feels this way all the time, especially when faced with conflict.  However, as one of my mentors once taught me, challenges create movement and movement creates opportunity.  And whether you view that process through the eyes of an optimist or a pessimist may help explain who you are today.

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