What’s the difference between…

an optimist and a pessimist?

I have always had a hard time trying to decide if I’m the former or the latter.

See, I’ve been musing about life recently which has been partly because of the Tree of Life film experience and the reading of reviews to understand what it is I didn’t get about it of the latest global financial crisis and the undergoing riots in London and the UK.

When I was originally writing that post, I was going to juxtapose the Mallick film with the one that for me captures a – what I’ve always seen as pessimistic – view of what life is about; the Children of Men by Alfonso Cuarón. I had watched the 2006 science fiction movie the week before The Tree of Life and it didn’t fail to make me emotional for the umpteenth time. The scene in which Kee’s baby starts to cry and everyone ceases fire for them to pass probably encapsulates what I think about humankind as a species.

It goes a bit like this: humans are bound to a journey of self-destruction (a bit like the Buendía family), caught up in personal crusades that are sometimes inspired by greater incentives – only to become personal again at some point, some fighting wars they don’t want to fight, some merely getting by. [Like the dystopian, bleak setting of the film with the state and the rebels fighting, the immigrants and the rest of the population simply surviving.]

During the course of their lives few awe inspiring events transpire with an impact so big to take their minds off the immediate and the intimate. [Kee’s baby, the first to be born in about 18 years.] Confronted with an event so hugely significant and meaningful, the myopic vision disappears and gives its place to interminable hope and goodwill. [Rebels and soldiers and everyone making way for the newborn.] Everyone appreciates in unison the moment they have been lucky to experience together until the effect almost wears off. And then it’s back to fighting, back to the same ole, same ole, as if the experience – that for many has some sort of spiritual undertone – never touched them in the first place.

Does that view of life make me an optimist or a pessimist – I never understood. Reading about the film, I found out that Cuaron wanted to end the film in a way that would please both sides and maybe that is why I enjoy watching it so much, because it shows that life is basically shite (more or less) but there may be a chance of hope.

I started working on this post more than a week ago and I suddenly stopped, unable to finish what I was trying to write. Just walking out in the Ghost Town tonight to find a cornershop to buy some loo rolls (the mundane trivialities of everyday life interrupted violently by the curfew), I thought of the Children of Men again.

The streets empty and the shops closed, people simply going from A to B hurriedly, nobody walking around even though the summer is here and the weather has been great (for London standards). While the financial world crumbles and people around the globe spend their days  and nights on the streets, it’s hard to see where all this is going to end. Was the recession ever over? How are we ever going to get out of the credit rating, inflation and debt malarkey? While I type this, the sirens outside the window provide this night’s soundtrack. Should I despair or secretly hope that everything’s going to be alright?

Maybe I’m somewhere in between…

“I’m a pessimist because of intelligence, but an optimist because of will”. Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937)


Athens, London, Singapore, the world. Up for stuff.

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