We have turned the corner and the sap of optimism is rising

We need to give ourselves a long and hefty clap on the back

Darragh and his son: “We chose compassion, common sense and kindness. If that’s not cause for optimism I don’t know what is.”

Darragh and his son: “We chose compassion, common sense and kindness. If that’s not cause for optimism I don’t know what is.”

 

The end is nigh, and I’m feeling good.

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I have a terrible confession to make. I’m hesitant to say, because once these words are out in the open there’s no taking them back. I may be pilloried, ridiculed and ultimately exiled. But I have to get it off my chest: I am feeling optimistic.

I know. But please, just hear me out.

Last night I slept from 11pm to 7am. It was the best sleep I’ve had in years. For the past two weeks our daughter has been steadily sleeping longer and longer. It’s happening. It’s actually happening. This time it’s real, we’re sure of it. After almost three years our daughter is finally starting to sleep through the night.

If my body is a temple it was starting to feel like a crumbling ruin. But now it is being repaired. Funds have been allocated. The world’s finest architects and engineers have been flown in. Let the great restoration begin.

My optimism isn’t just a by-product of feeling well-rested (although I’ll freely admit it plays a massive role). My parents, father-in-law and sister-in-law have all been vaccinated (along with one million others so far in Ireland). Recently two of our friends gave birth to beautiful, healthy baby girls. The bloody sun is out.

So the optimism is real, but why do I think twice before voicing it?

I have never spent time in a maximum-security prison, but I assume it’s the overly-optimistic inmates who get shanked first. Can you imagine how annoying it would be having an optimistic cellmate?

“Hey, it could be worse,” he might say for the thousandth time as you sharpen the end of a toothbrush with a twitch in your eye.

Optimists are often dismissed for not living in the real world. Their heads are in the sand. Or up in the clouds. Their heads are, generally speaking, anywhere but on the level.

How receptive we are to optimistic ideas depends both on timing and circumstance. A couple engaged to be married would more than likely have a rosier outlook on life than one who has just gone through an acrimonious divorce.

On a wider scale, imagine a scenario where the Irish football team have reached the final of the World Cup, during the hottest summer on record. Unemployment is at an all-time low and everyone can afford a house. In this highly unlikely situation, if one were to proffer an optimistically-tinged opinion, it would most likely be welcomed with warm, enthusiastic agreement.

The sad irony is the times we need optimism the most is usually when it’s most freely derided.

It has been said before, but I’d like to drive the point home; we need to give ourselves a long and hefty clap on the back. We can’t clap anyone else’s so we may as well clap our own. We are so nearly there (owing to a recent article in this paper on the liberal use of the first person plural, I should point out that inclusion in this “we” is entirely optional).

Finish line

I can see the finish line. I can taste that first sip of freshly-pulled Guinness. I can smell the warm, salted popcorn as I settle in with a roomful of strangers to watch our first film on the big screen in over a year.

Am I going to tip a bag of Minstrels into the popcorn like an absolute child? Maybe! I can see birthday parties with children in the arms of their grandparents. I can see it all, clear as day.

Maybe my optimism is misplaced. It wouldn’t be the first time. Maybe I’m Lenny, gazing off into a brighter future, all the while George (reality) quietly aims a gun at the back of my head. But I can’t help thinking like that annoying inmate – things could have been so much worse.

Imagine we didn’t yet have a vaccine. Imagine the virus killed 30% of those it infected. Or 50%? Imagine we had listened to those wolves harping on about herd immunity?

It’s worth remembering that there were people – honest to God real people – who were genuinely suggesting we let the old and the vulnerable die so that we may save our economy.

It’s time for an unexpected detour, I think. During the Second Punic War against Carthage, Rome suffered catastrophic losses at the Battle of Cannae. Their army was wiped out; Hannibal was on the verge of complete victory. It was the bloodiest single-day battle for over 2,000 years – until the Battle of the Somme.

So what did Rome do? They sacrificed four innocent people by burying them alive. It was a decidedly un-Roman thing to do. People were shocked, embarrassed and outraged, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Ultimately Rome went on to defeat the Carthaginians and establish a vast and long-lasting empire, but the question is: could they have done it without the human sacrifice?

In 2020 we had our own Hannibal knocking at our door and we chose a different path. We chose compassion, common sense and kindness. If that’s not cause for optimism I don’t know what is.

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