We got a forwarded-to-everyone-in-the-address-book e-mail from my uncle urging a boycott of the soon-to-be-issued $1 coin because the wording “In God We Trust” has been removed(!). Note that only one side of the coin is pictured.
But my enterprising husband – one of whose pet peeves is indiscriminate e-mail forwarding of unverified rumors – went to the US Mint’s website to find a graphic of the new coin. The wording’s still there, but relocated to the edge instead of the head or tail. He sent that info out with the “reply all” button (sometimes it is appropriate to use that).
In this case, the truth is quite literally somewhere in the middle.
While on the face of it, this doesn’t seem to have anything to do with Bub and Pie’s recent post on optimism (if you click through to it, read the comments too – she gets some great discussions going over there), upon further reflection I think it does. We tend to think in terms of dichotomy – optimist/pessimist, good/bad, dark/light, full/empty, heads/tails – although most things are more complicated than that. But at the same time, one part of the pair can’t exist without the other – and at some point in the mix we might find those elusive things we call “truth” and “balance.”
My sister and I have gone back and forth on the optimist/pessimist thing for years. She’s fundamentally an optimist, I’m fundamentally not. She’s definitely a “glass is half-full” person. I want to know what direction the liquid’s going – into or out of the glass – before I call it as half-full or half-empty. (I actually call that being a “realist,” but according to B&P, that makes me a pessimist in disguise.) I tend to operate from the standpoint of “expect the worst, and you won’t be disappointed, but you could be pleasantly surprised.” My husband’s approach is pretty similar to mine, but I suspect he’s got an underlying optimistic streak that’s a little wider than mine – when I admit to having one, and that’s a relatively recent occurrence. I respect people who can maintain optimism – it seems to me that it takes a good deal of perseverance, along with a sizable dose of denial. A more pessimistic outlook is just easier sometimes – it doesn’t seem to ask as much of you.
I’ve read that one basic difference between optimists and pessimists in how they engage with the world is that optimists blame their circumstances for setbacks, but pessimists blame themselves. I know that in my case, that’s pretty accurate, and one of the things that puts me on the pessimistic end of the spectrum.
I think that most people’s personalities trend one way or the other on this, and that the basic tendency is probably pretty much set for most of us. But I also think we can learn to incorporate elements from the other side, and that we’ll have a healthier overall outlook if we can. At the extremes, optimists and pessimists can really irritate each other, but we need each other, and each other’s viewpoint. Without some ability to look on the bright side, we might never do anything; but without being able to see the potential pitfalls, we might not stop ourselves from doing some really dumb things. So once again, we come back to the mix, and the balance that’s in there somewhere. I think that’s more interesting than having just two sides to every story – or person, or coin.