We Need Cynicism in Optimism

For most of my 28 years, my best friend – even ahead of wine – has been a conviction that none of my dreams would come true. It’s not as bad as it sounds. I was free to laugh an uninvested laugh at every awkward situation and bungled opportunity that came along, of which there were many. Thinking about them now I chuckle, like a nostalgic older sister.

The problem with cynical detachment is where do you take it? You could wine and dine it, or whisk it off to a youth hostel in Barcelona… But it wouldn’t appreciate that. Sure it’d come to trawl for anecdotes fileable under ‘exotically awkward’ but it wouldn’t offer an opinion on the eternally unfinished church that is the Sagrada Familia or find a favourite Gaudi piece in Park Guell.

Yes, I personified detachment and sent it to Basque country. Easyjet made that possible.

The point is – or once was – disbelief in one’s own development is not sustainable because no one likes to be bored and the only way to fend off boredom is to pursue interests.

That’s optimism, right there.

The main problem with optimism or ‘positive thinking’ is it appears to have been appropriated by people with sanctimoniousness where the medical model suggests a sense of humour should lie. It’s insane. Take away hope and gallows humour springs up, apply it in spades and you get uptight people who tut when your mat touches theirs in the bikram yoga studio.

Bikram yoga! I do that now. In many ways it is amazing. I like the instructor who speaks so fast he sounds like a horse-racing pundit. I like that everyone is semi-naked and sweating and attempting to do ‘the tree’ not (just) because I’m perverted but because… what the hell? I like the tortuous heat and tortuous thoughts and the fact that amidst all this torture my body is able to contort and stretch like the robust physical entity it is. Bikram yoga is a wonderful thing that is expanding my consciousness and physical capabilities yet there is one facet  I cannot get on board with.

It is the most earnest thing in the world. For 1h 30 mins it’s all about ‘discipline’ and ‘breathing’. You’re supposed to be unmoved by all the semi-naked, sweaty people crouched in ‘the rabbit’.

But last week a perfect thing happened that encapsulated everything I want in an outlook. The instructor asked us to balance on one leg. The woman beside me followed the instruction but before that she rolled her eyes, always the right response to someone asking you to balance on one leg.

She did the ridiculous thing that would ultimately do her good but she didn’t take it seriously.

I wish the world worked just like that.

Photo of the Sagrada Familia by moi, Sophie Monks Kaufman

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