Do you know that person, who runs around with an attitude about the how the world is a just place and everybody gets what the deserve in life? That there is some cosmic force making sure bad things don’t happen to good people, while also making sure that bad people get what they deserve? Well that person is not paying attention to reality, or simply hasn’t been alive long enough to realize that this isn’t true. Exceptionally terrible things happen to people who don’t deserve them, all the time. Acknowledging this doesn’t need to be negative but ignoring it will make you vulnerably naive on some level. True optimism is understanding the harsh realities of life, looking at them pragmatically, but also having a plan and an expectation to still thrive when they inevitably occur. Often times this seems to get tangled and twisted into a concept that you always need to look at the positive side of things, people, circumstances, or whatever life throws your way. The truth is, a more beneficial outlook would be to attach no meaning to some events at all, instead letting time decide what their true meaning might be. With that in mind, here are 3 differences between optimism and naivety and a pretty picture of some blue water, because why not.
1) Optimism comes from a place of observation, experience, and empowerment; naivety comes from inexperience.
2) Optimism comes from undramatic maturity; naivety comes from immaturity and immaturity is usually drowning in drama.
3) Optimism is long sighted where naivety focuses disproportionately on the short term. (Optimism is not the same as never seeing anything negative. It just keeps it in perspective)
Below, I have added a story titled “The Farmer’s Son”. I didn’t write it but I love this story because it shows the flaws that come with rushing to judgment and short sightedness, and contrasts them against the steady and calm approach of the farmer in the story. It’s a great lesson to revisit frequently for a reminder about how dramatic events, as well as the meaning of events, can change form when more time or information is added. Strangely, negatives can turn to positives, and sometimes back into negatives. Time changes perspectives and reveals truth that wasn’t visible before. It’s an invaluable lesson when navigating the uncertainties of life.
The farmer’s son
One day in late summer, an old farmer was working in his field with his old sick horse. The farmer felt compassion for the horse and desired to lift its burden. So he left his horse loose to go the mountains and live out the rest of its life.
Soon after, neighbors from the nearby village visited, offering their condolences and said, “What a shame. Now your only horse is gone. How unfortunate you are!. You must be very sad. How will you live, work the land, and prosper?” The farmer replied: “Who knows? We shall see”.
Two days later the old horse came back now rejuvenated after meandering in the mountainsides while eating the wild grasses. He came back with twelve new younger and healthy horses which followed the old horse into the corral.
Word got out in the village of the old farmer’s good fortune and it wasn’t long before people stopped by to congratulate the farmer on his good luck. “How fortunate you are!” they exclaimed. You must be very happy!” Again, the farmer softly said, “Who knows? We shall see.”
At daybreak on the next morning, the farmer’s only son set off to attempt to train the new wild horses, but the farmer’s son was thrown to the ground and broke his leg. One by one villagers arrived during the day to bemoan the farmer’s latest misfortune. “Oh, what a tragedy! Your son won’t be able to help you farm with a broken leg. You’ll have to do all the work yourself, How will you survive? You must be very sad”. they said. Calmly going about his usual business the farmer answered, “Who knows? We shall see”
Several days later a war broke out. The Emperor’s men arrived in the village demanding that young men come with them to be conscripted into the Emperor’s army. As it happened the farmer’s son was deemed unfit because of his broken leg. “What very good fortune you have!!” the villagers exclaimed as their own young sons were marched away. “You must be very happy.” “Who knows? We shall see!”, replied the old farmer as he headed off to work his field alone.
As time went on the broken leg healed but the son was left with a slight limp. Again the neighbors came to pay their condolences. “Oh what bad luck. Too bad for you”! But the old farmer simply replied; “Who knows? We shall see.”
As it turned out the other young village boys had died in the war and the old farmer and his son were the only able bodied men capable of working the village lands. The old farmer became wealthy and was very generous to the villagers. They said: “Oh how fortunate we are, you must be very happy”, to which the old farmer replied, “Who knows? We shall see!”