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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Optimism -- Living a Life Half-full

I have the distinction of sharing a birthday with Anne Frank, author of the best selling work of non-fiction in the world so my bar is set rather high on the successful writer meter. I'd like to think that Anne and I share more than birthdays, that we share an unchanging belief in the inherent goodness of people, in spite of the raw deals we may have been dealt; hers certainly more catastrophic than my own.

There is somehow a great responsibility levied with this common link and I am not alone in considering the birth date of June 12 as somehow significant.

Phillip Roth's life-long obsession with Ms. Frank was in some measure what drove his pursuit of Claire Bloom, another June 12 Jewess. Surely she, in spite of Mr. Roth's brilliantly documented proclivity to fester in the dark side, must have believed that underneath his embittered vowels and Jewish self-loathing; must be a spark of the joy that is life. Surely she was an optimist, like Anne, in spite of the mountains of evidence to the contrary.

If I examine my life on the world stage I am challenged to remain hopeful and positive. The relentless 24 hour News feed is enough to crush the spirits of the most blindly optimistic. Even reduced down to the small village raising my child, I have moments of despair. And yet in spite of those moments I chose to bring a child into this world.

I made this decision as a full-fledged adult of 40 in spite of not having the best role models (but who does?), to prepare me for this never-ending responsibility. This life-affirming step requires a belief in some kind of future, in some kind of ever after.

Whether it is science or religion, Einstein famously opined that these two things were connected; each requiring a leap of faith, a leap into the unknowable. I would have included Parenthood.

In choosing to become a parent are we not conveying a necessary optimism, a belief that our world is worth entering --- in spite of the mountains of evidence to the contrary?

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