The people at such gatherings are always very interesting, but the poetry presents more of an endurance test than anything else. I would much rather read a novel, a short story, or (of course) the newspaper.
There is one poem that I have quoted often. It is easy to understand, both in wording and content. The simplicity of this poem is probably a sad reflection of my elementary level of reasoning when it comes to poetry.
I will share it here as a central part of the thought I wish to convey in today’s column. The poem is titled “The Optimistic Frog.” The author of the poem is unknown. Perhaps he or she was too embarrassed to sign his or her name.
Two frogs fell into a deep cream bowl,
One was an optimistic soul;
But the other took the gloomy view,
“We shall drown,” he cried, without more ado.
So with a last despairing cry,
He flung up his legs and he said, “Goodbye.”
Quote the other frog with a merry grin,
“I can't get out, but I won't give in.
I'll just swim around till my strength is spent,
Then will I die the more content.”
Bravely he swam till it would seem
His struggles began to churn the cream.
On the top of the butter at last he stopped,
And out of the bowl he gaily hopped.
What of the moral? 'Tis easily found:
If you can't hop out, keep swimming around.
Why is it that some frogs (and people) give up while other frogs (and people) keep swimming around? Can the pessimistic frogs of the world be taught to become optimistic? I think so.
Although some personality types tend to be more prone to pessimism, while other types seem to be more prone to optimism, I maintain that whether we tend to be pessimistic or optimistic is mostly a learned reaction to our environment.
And since we learn to be pessimistic, we can unlearn pessimism. In the process of doing this, we can learn to be optimistic. It’s really not as difficult as one might think.
There is no need to change your environment. All that needs changing is perspective. Rather than see the bowl you may be trapped in as an insurmountable problem, see it, instead, as a challenge.
The challenge confronting you may require some active decision to get out of the mess you are in or may be so overwhelming that nothing you might do would appear to work. If caught in such a situation, optimism can be a source of inner strength that keeps you swimming around until eventually you can hop out.