The differences between pessimists, optimists and realists

DIFFERENCE: Peta Hawker says a realist just gets on with life and
DIFFERENCE: Peta Hawker says a realist just gets on with life and "drinks the water, understanding that to be in the moment is often the smartest thing to do".

A glass contains 50 per cent water. A pessimist is a person who considers the glass half full; an optimist considers the glass half empty. A realist drinks the water. 

I once started a lecture with this twist on the hackneyed axiom of the difference between optimist and pessimist, and was asked to explain my take. To me, a dyslexic with a tendency to see things backwards or inside out, it seemed obvious. A pessimist sees a glass containing 50 per cent water, and believes that that is all there is. The glass is half full, because half a glass of water is as good as it gets. The pessimist believes themselves worthy of no more.

On the other hand, the optimist sees a glass containing 50 per cent water and expects more. The glass is half empty, because the optimist expects more. The optimist expects much from life, as the optimist knows how beautiful and wonderful life can be.

A realist just gets on with life, and drinks the water, understanding that to be in the moment is often the smartest thing to do in a world which is so uncertain, and beyond the control of any individual.

This lack of control over what many call fate, or God, is perhaps the most vulnerable point of human awareness. As children, we conducer our parents’ gods. Our parents provide us with our physical and emotional needs (ideally), and give us security and protection from a world that can be quite bewildering. As adults, this need for an entity greater than ourselves never really goes away.  In the Christian world, this need was filled by the church, and prior to that, to the priests and priestesses of the many religions followed across the pre-Christian world.  That, in post-Roman times, church and state were so closely intertwined is perfectly natural. The world was an unpredictable place (an impression magnified and intensified with every inexplicable wave of ideas that cruelly culled the population), and people looked to institutions such as the church as a child looks to a parent for explanation, security, and protection. Parents can understand the world better than children, and therefore make decisions, and in such a way people looked to the church for decisions for their lives.  

Even after the age of reason, people are still looking to others for guidance. For so many, the age of reason removed deities from their lives and replaced them with science (although the two need not be mutually exclusive). However, despite the best efforts by some of the greatest minds in existence, the public's understanding of how nature works is sketchy. Superstition still permeates so much of our understanding.

The way in which people have so much trust and faith in institutions and believe, without question, what they read in the media or what’s on social media, reveals an innate need for the existence of a higher power, a parental figure which we can trust to have our best interests at heart.

The way people trust the economy, even after all the crashes, is something I find rather odd, but consistent with people's need to trust in something greater than themselves.

People also seem to have blind trust in the banks, insurance companies, computers, politicians. Like a bunch of sheep startled each day by the rising sun, they seem surprised by the screamingly obvious. 

Of course the banks are profit-making institutions. Was a Royal Commission needed to tell us that? Electricity providers are screwing us over, politicians bickering and putting their needs light years ahead of the populace they are supposed to represent, and “experts” on the news are telling us the obvious.

That hero movies have become so popular is no surprise. If God has been emasculated, and the replacements pathetic, where does one look for parental figures?  

The pessimist accepts all this, and believes it doesn't get any better. The optimist questions, and considers humans worthy of better. The realist gets on with life, accepts that there are no larger than life humans. 

The world can indeed be beautiful. Blind faith is not. It can only lead to disappointment, and the repeating of mistakes.