Drummed out of the Optimist Club

Gerard Van der Leun, having been granted, if not a new lease on life, certainly a much-desired renewal, is finding that it is not so easy to adjust to a pace he finds unremittingly slow:

It is only in the last few weeks that the virtue of patience is beginning to dawn on me. That virtue is, “If you are patient with yourself, you may live. If you insist on running the 4 minute mile this afternoon, you will be checked out of here in a wicker basket.” In short, “patience” is no longer an option but a requirement. My previous reaction to illness has been to get over it and then get back to work. No such option here.

Roger Bannister, who knows something about the 4 minute mile, had this to say:

“Doctors and scientists said that breaking the four-minute mile was impossible, that one would die in the attempt. Thus, when I got up from the track after collapsing at the finish line, I figured I was dead.”

Sir Roger has thus far survived 57 years since that incident. But the best advice so far seems to have come from Ric Locke in Gerard’s comment section:

What you have to do is give over optimism, at least the sort of bumptious, forceful optimism that demands that the next thing be better. That’s how the OWS kiddies got where they are. No matter how well things turn out there’s always something not quite perfect, so they get disappointed and either bitter or furious, depending on personality. The true pessimist, on the other hand, goes through life with a spring in his step and a smile on his face; nothing happens that’s worse than expected, and all his surprises are happy ones.

After not being killed by the strongest earthquake in Oklahoma history Saturday night, I find this advice most useful.


  1. fillyjonk »

    7 November 2011 · 10:01 am

    I think there are different personalities out there. Some look at life and say “Things could be much worse” (reading a lot of history can also do that for you…) and others look at life and say “Things could be much better.” Some of those people go on to try to MAKE things better, which is commendable, but some just sit around and complain about why things aren’t better.

    I dunno. Having had relatives old enough to remember the Polio Summers when they were raising children, and having a parent who grew up in a house without running water or a telephone and having a great-grandfather who died from complications of Type II Diabetes back before they had much other than a very restrictive diet to treat it….I’m pretty dang grateful for the way things are right now.

  2. Bill Peschel »

    7 November 2011 · 12:09 pm

    I remember a story about optimists and pessimists in business, and how optimists can be good as high-level executives, because they’re searching for new opportunities to exploit, while the pessimists are great at implementing them, because they’re always looking for the pitfalls. If they’re both willing to give, they can work effectively together.

    Having been a lifelong pessimist, I’ve been working hard on my optimism, and see the need to have both. I’d hate to be a complete pessimist, because it isn’t that far from depression, and that is a very unhealthy state.

  3. Tatyana »

    7 November 2011 · 1:52 pm

    I wonder how and when a born optimist turned into a hard pessimist? Life works on one gradually, and it’s impossible to point to a decisive moment, I guess

  4. vanderleun »

    7 November 2011 · 1:58 pm

    Me? I’m a reborn optimist.

  5. CGHill »

    7 November 2011 · 2:41 pm

    For the sake of rather a lot of us, I hope you’re right.

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