The Case for Optimism

THE UU PATH: Fireflies in the dark

 

by Hallas Midgette

 

With all of the mess going on in the world, it is hard to be an optimist. However, my friend Hallas Midgette has a made good case for being one. He made it in a talk he delivered to the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Columbus, Georgia on April 23, 2017.  Because I found it quite thought provoking I decided to share it with you. I know you have a lot to read, so I’m going to publish it in four episodes. 

Hal, who is one of the most intelligent persons I know, is a retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. and retired science instructor at Brookstone High School.   

Hallas Midgette

Episode One

Optimists are hopeful and confident about the future or the successful outcome of something.  Optimism is thought to have a heritable factor, as well as being influenced by environment.  I believe the UU path is an optimistic way of navigating through life, and in my talk today, I will try to explain that opinion, but first, I’ll share my personal journey into optimism, starting with the title:  “The UU Path:   Fireflies in the Dark.

Some of you might be thinking that if fireflies were illuminating the UU path, it must be pretty dimly lit.  As a child, here in the South, Summer evenings were filled with the sounds of frogs, the buzzing of mosquitoes, the sweet smell of honeysuckle, and the delight of fireflies flickering in the yard and trees.  I knew from an early age that the light in fireflies wasn’t really fire, but bioluminescence.  Only later would I learn that the females were in the trees flickering in specie specific frequencies to lure the males from the yards below, and that sometimes carnivorous beetles would imitate the female fireflies in order to lure the unsuspecting males up to dinner, but not one of their choosing.  I had so much to learn….and still do.  This is how I viewed Summers for decades until one warm Summer evening in Kansas.  It was night and I was returning home from Kansas City, driving through the countryside…and that is when I noticed the fireflies.  I pulled over and for the next ten minutes witnessed the most amazing sight I’ve ever seen.  Untold millions, perhaps billions, of fireflies were lighting up, filling the whole field with light in a way that was and is still hard for me to comprehend.  In a world of many religions, UUs stand out as a light in the darkness. That light is optimism.  Unitarians are optimistic.  We are not Pollyannas, but realists, and I contend, are fundamentally optimists who see the possibility of a positive outcome for the human condition.  It is not there for the taking, but has to be fought for, and we are engaged in that fight.

I’ve always been a glass half full person, rejecting the half empty view.  While not always being happy, I’m optimistic about humans and our future.  Part of this might be explained by what I read as a child, starting with science fiction.  In science fiction, humans usually are pushing out from Earth, voyaging into the unknown and often finding strange worlds, and even stranger sentient beings.  Sometimes the stories are bleak as the aliens had ambitions to destroy us, but eventually we either overpower them with human ingenuity or befriend them, and ultimately humankind lives happily ever after….walking hand in tentacle into the sunset.   Perhaps these books shaped my views, or maybe I chose them because they fit my worldview…or those of my optimist genes.  Only psychoanalysis can tell, but I’m afraid of couches.

Those four books are “Candide,” by Voltaire, “Extinction: Bad Luck or Bad Genes,” by David M. Raup, “”On Human Nature,” by Edward O. Wilson, and “Nonzero: the Logic for Human Destiny”, by Robert Wright.  In our next episode, Hal will explain why those books shaped his worldview.

Advertisements

Tags: , , , , , ,

2 Responses to “The Case for Optimism”

  1. Robert Myers Says:

    Thanks for “The case for optimism” I look forward to the next post

    Bob Myers , in Greensboro, N.C.

  2. Patricia Lassiter Says:

    Thanks for putting Hal’s terrific talk on your blog. I was fortunate to enjoy the talk in person and am so grateful that others will be able to read it, thanks to you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: