Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Becoming an Optimist

We live in challenging times and I ponder our current state every day. As I savor the solitude of the morning, I dawn my ancient prayer garments and prepare for the morning sacrifice. While the practice of the sacrifice ceased shortly before the destruction of the second Temple, I find the experience to be cathartic and insist on it being a part of my morning ritual. Being a long standing member of P.E.T.A.* I am conflicted by animal sacrifice. Thus my offerings are creatures from the Littlest Pet Shop. This morning, Bunny and Lady Bug, in spite of their oversized heads and wide “please don’t kill me” eyes are tendered.
* Disclaimor : I have never really paid any membership dues to PETA. I just wanted to convey that I might be motivated by moral or social empathies when in reality I am substantially barren of these traits

During the sacrifice, I am assisted by one of our servants, a boy from somewhere in Mongolia. I am not sure if he is from the inner or outer region because he speaks no English and I am too lazy to read it off the passport which I confiscated from him. When I ask him which region he is from he simply returns a bow all the while adhering to my strict admonishment of not making direct eye contact.

After a breakfast of probiotics and Cocoa Pebbles, I leave my Dick Cheney-fortified bunker for work. It is at this moment that the harsh realities of the external world begin to expose themselves. While I possess the keen awareness of Patrick Swayze’s character of Dalton in Road House, which allows me to identify any sharp objects that might be obfuscated within one’s right boot, I still attempt to find goodness in all that is broken around me.

The staunch optimism that I possess can be directly attributed to my exposure to the Optimist’s Club while in the 9th grade. During this time I participated in an oratory competition where I presented an essay on the theme of “In My Youth I See.” My essay focused on the credo of understanding one another and the benefits of tolerance. While I skated through the first round of competition uncontested, I was defeated in the second round by an essayist who outlined his case on why the U.S. should boycott the Soviet-hosted Olympics due to their invasion of Afghanistan. While I still scratch my head at what his message was, I am of course better for the experience. With the loss came deep sorrow but also the consolation of an open invitation from the panel judging the competition to join them for breakfast at Denny’s any Friday morning at 7:30. This made me feel a little better and also wanted.

While I never joined the Optimist’s for breakfast, I recently became intrigued as to whether they have been able to prosper with our changing and challenging times. With this curiosity, I consulted the Beacon of All Truths (a.k.a. the Internet) to seek their whereabouts. To my delight I found that as with all unstoppable enterprises, the former Optimist’s Club has since gone global and now boasts the moniker of Optimist International.

In times like these I thought it would make sense to investigate the longevity and achievements of this group and hopefully draw upon their cause as a source of inspiration. A visit to their website immediately revealed their Mission Statement:

By providing hope and positive vision, Optimists bring out the best in kids.

Now, while most organizations would simply stop with a mission statement, there is no boundary to the enthusiasm of the Optimist’s as they also have a Vision Statement (no one else could be so bold!):

“Optimist International will be recognized worldwide as the premier volunteer organization that values all children and helps them develop to their full potential.”

These two powerful statements were enough for me. As I read these, tears of hope began to fill my eyes and streamed onto my keyboard. As I continued to read I came across their credo and was amazed that all of this invaluable information was not only posted on the Internet, but was absolutely free of charge! It was an epiphany and from that moment I vowed to do the work necessary to fulfill the ambitious creed. Below I outline my approach:

The Optimist Creed
Promise Yourself-

To be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind - Check. As I child I was always inspired by this 70’s Boston’s song and now I see it as no mere coincidence. This should be easy.

To make all your friends feel that there is something in them - Check. I have no problems letting my friends know what is in them, particularly what they are full of.

To look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true.
- I would like to view this as possible but I envision scenarios where this cannot be done. For example, if I am stuck in traffic and have just ingested a large coffee and two bran muffins…I think you see where I am going with this.

To think only of the best, to work only for the best, and to expect only the best. - So basically this inspires me to work for someone who is really good and only think about being the best while also expecting the best. Note, this does not inspire me to in any way work to be the best myself. Check, I am already doing this.

To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own. - I promise only to do this up to the point of jealousy.

To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future. - I have always been inspired that my next opportunity for great failure is just around the corner.

To wear a cheerful countenance at all times and give every living creature you meet a smile. I would like to wear countenance but unfortunately it washes me out and makes my ass look big.

To talk health, happiness and prosperity to every person you meet. - This is one with which I take exception. I just never see myself as being “that guy” and I certainly don’t want to be labeled. I can see it now, oh here comes Mike and all he wants to talk about health, happiness and prosperity. Further, I don’t think this is in my DNA.

To give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others. - I really like this one however I think it neglects an important two-pronged approach. By allowing criticism of others, it brings them down to a much lower level thereby decreasing the amount of time I have to spend improving myself.

To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble. - Anabolic steroids should help with the weight gain and strength and anti-depressants should cover the happiness. Not sure what to take for nobility but if I wear a crown, this might help do the trick.

With this great challenge ahead and in today’s difficult times, I invite you to join me in my quest.