On Eternal Optimism 📈

A throng of people huddled around a single, small frame on the wall of the MoMA’s 5 floor gallery. As I peered over the shoulders of my fellow museum-goers, I caught a glimpse of Vincent Van Gogh’s The Starry Night.

“Art”, I thought, “such a lesson in subjective perception.”

What might it have meant to Van Gogh? What does it mean to each individual gathered around it? What does it mean to me?

Trying to parse out the possible answers to these questions would be a endless philosophical exercise with no discernible outcome. However, these questions do underscore something discernible and true. Specifically, subjective perception can generate desires, hopes, and drive that can profoundly influence reality.

On an individual level this means: having a vision of yourself and your future can mold the microcosm around you and enable you to actualize that vision. On a grander scale, perceptions continuously morph the world around us. Look to the life works of these great people as examples:

  • Our Founding Fathers: Overthrowing the rule of a tyrant, establishing governance by the people, and imbuing a society with the belief that — life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are sacrosanct.
  • Abraham Lincoln: Enforcing the Emancipation Proclamation and saving the Union.
  • Teddy Roosevelt: Conserving our lands for future generations and ushering in the Progressive Era in the United States
  • Franklin Roosevelt: Combatting Fascist Imperialism abroad and the Great Depression at home.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. and Congressman John Lewis: Securing the the passage of the Civil Rights Act and ensuring the we march ever onward towards that Dream.
  • John F Kennedy: Landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to Earth.

These are great works; they are flash-points in history… and they all started as ideas. These events happened precisely because ideas are contagious. Good ideas spread like wildfire and when ideas spread they become reality.

Wielding this power, one has the capability to bend the world towards the hopes and dreams embodied in the idea. The efficacy of the idea in the world is directly related to the relative influence of the idea’s purveyor. Understanding and acting on this truth can be a catalyst for great change.

At the individual level: As your dignity, reputation, social capital, and monetary capital grows, then the influence of your idea or worldview becomes more powerful.

This is true for groups too. However, the effect is compounded. A group is made up of individuals with varying degrees of social and monetary capital. By aggregating their social and monetary capital into a collective organization, there emerges a compounding, network effect that emanates outward to the acquaintances of those within the group. This compounding, network effect gives the group legitimacy and dignity, further bolstering its ideas and worldview in the minds and hearts of people both inside and outside the group.

That’s why it’s critical to promote a worldview of eternal optimism, hope in a better future, and the unbounded advancement of humanity. If we do not believe in progress, then it will never happen. That’s why I’m an eternal optimist. Will you join me?

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