The time came, once again, for the centennial meeting of optimism and pessimism. Their place at this juncture was a bench on the edge of a great city, backing upon a national park that held many animals. The madness of the city thrived in front, while the animals grazed in the plains beyond, silhouettes shimmering in the distant mid-day heat, moving slowly in the tall grass.
Pessimism, now an old man, waited on the bench in a worn cardigan that smelled vaguely of moth balls, a pair of old slacks and loafers, and a fedora positioned just so, in order to keep the sun from getting into his eyes. Between his knees he held a cane, and he tapped against it distractedly with his ring as he waited, looking out over the cityscape, thinking. Optimism was late, as usual.
After a few minutes the ne’er’-do-well arrived, looking younger than his years, as always, in a hawaiian top, khakis and a pair of old runners, cheerily tanned and rosy-cheeked.
“You’re late,” pessimism grumbled.
“Oh, really?” Optimism asked, sitting down on the bench next to him. “Sorry about that. I got suckered into a game of street ball with some kids. Thought I was on time still.” He leaned back, stretching his arms across the top of the bench, taking a long breath. “Well, what a century. Things have improved, no?”
Pessimism looked over, eyeing him with a tired disbelief. This caused his counterpart to burst into laughter. It was a good hearted, deep laughter, and it rang out into the air with a cleanness that matched the clarity of the day.
“You well know the state of things,” Pessimism said. “The humans are not doing well. Worse than ever, actually. This really could be it for them. How can you possibly say things have improved?”
“Well, it’s no dark ages, now is it?”
“Not at all,” Pessimism mumbled, leaning forward, putting more weight on his cane and peering into the distance. “It’s far worse. Far worse…”
Otimism looked up, squinting into the sky. “The sun is shining. The breeze is blowing. It’s a wonderful day.”
“You’re missing it,” Optimism said.
“Well you're missing the whole point!” Pessimism fired back. “If everyone sat around just appreciating the weather all day we’d really have no hope of getting anywhere. You still haven’t learned a thing, have you? You’re still totally deluded.”
“Possibly. But if everything ended right now, at least I’d go out feeling good.”
“Oh god, are we really going to have this conversation again? That’s the whole problem! You don’t care! None of you do! All you care about is ‘feeling good’. If any of you people put one ounce of the energy you put into being so sickly happy all the time into something that actually mattered, we might just have a chance!”
“Feeling good is the only chance we have.”
“Oh please.” There was real bitterness in Pessimism's tone now. “This is even worse than the last time we got together! Your ‘feeling’ is a lie, and it is not helping in any way towards fixing the problems that need to be fixed. If you actually felt bad about these things, you would do something about them.”
Optimism smiled, squinting into the sky once again. “Feeling good is the most powerful thing you can do. Everything you touch, every task you perform, every person you come into contact with is affected by it. When you feel good, you do things because you are moved to do them, not because you think you have to. You become like nature. You become the sun. You become the air. You sustain life, you give life, it grows within and around you.”
“That is completely out of alignment with the human experience. History is nothing but people having to do things they didn’t want to do, but had to. In fact, that is still the experience for the majority of people alive today. You know this. Not until it comes to a head and people refuse will change ever occur. Indeed, it’s the only way it ever has. ‘Feeling good’ does nothing but delay that indefinitely. And in this day and age, now, we just don’t have time for it anymore. We need to get angry! We need to fight for change! Feeling good is nothing but a funeral hymn.”
“Maybe so, but you said it yourself — feeling good is out of alignment with the human experience. We’ve never had a planet on which a good amount of people managed to feel consistently good, so we just don’t know. I imagine the results would be quite interesting.”
“If you consider the apocalypse interesting, sure.”
Optimism laughed again. “Boy oh boy, you need to cheer up.”
“And you need to smarten up!”
They looked at each other, Pessimism scowling, Optimism smiling slyly. Suddenly a strong breeze wafted through and swept Pessimism’s fedora from his head. He was slow in reacting, but Optimism’s reflexes were quick - he caught it before it could fly into the road.
“Give me that!” Pessimism growled.
Optimism played with it in his hands for a moment before looking up. “May I?” he asked, motioning towards his head.
“Whatever,” Pessimism said, turning away and peering back over the cityscape. Optimism plopped the fedora on his head, leaning back into the bench again with a sigh. “You know, old friend, I’ll agree with you on one thing. It's a pretty vicious cycle the majority of humans are in. Having to do things they don’t want to do, but must do, does indeed give most people a pretty bleak outlook. It’s sad. The residue of those feelings is left on everything they touch, each task they perform, each person they come into contact with, and it only gets stronger with time. Even if they have a smile on their face, it is not because they are moved to smile, it is because they have to smile. No one is fooled. Yet if they just took a moment, just one moment for a conscious breath, the breeze that is blowing would fill their lungs, and the sun would shine from the smile that then grew upon their face. That alone is enough for the new world. Indeed, that in itself is a world alone.”
Pessimism scoffed loudly. “That’s totally obtuse! You’re saying nothing.”
“Maybe I am. Maybe I just am.”
Optimism smiled, and closed his eyes in the breeze, and the two of them sat there, listening to the traffic, feeling the wind and the sun, thinking their thoughts, alone, together.