Is the World a Friendly Place or Not?

Is the world a friendly place or not? It’s a big question these days. We are pulled in both directions on this one, as we are bombarded daily with stories and visions of tragedy, humanity, and cruelty in the world. These are not times for the faint of heart. And they are hard times for the open hearted. Very hard times.

This question is a version of ~ ” The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly universe or not.” (Albert Einstein) Why so important? Because it’s a choice. Do we believe in construction or destruction? Because it’s an attitude. Do we support or do we put down? Because it’s a lifestyle. Do we seek to help others or hurt others? And if it is a friendly place, then we are in this together. If it is an unfriendly place, then we are in this alone.

The media says not friendly. The news throws cruelty parades at us every day. Networks exalt murder, destruction, and apocalypse in fact and fiction. Heads of state bully, belittle, and openly mock and victimize others on tv and in print. People carry concealed weapons in many states and countries – and it is legally sanctioned. All this suggests that we are in a constant state of high alert for combat. Who wants to live like that?? Not I, and I would wager not most of us.

We can make the conscious choice toward the friendly world view. And we can make the conscious choice to help build it. We can adopt the attitude of tragic optimists – “to say ‘yes’ to life despite the pain” and to counteract it “by the positive forces of hope, faith, and love.” (Viktor Frankl) We can believe humanity can do better and be better, and we can help it along in our daily lives. First, by not being discouraged or silenced. Second, by extending our compassion and light to others. Third, by showing resilience in troubling times.

Fearful people don’t change the world, people with optimism do. Be the change. Be the light.





“Optimism is the foundation of courage.” This was written by a man who was born during the American Civil War and died shortly after WWII. Imagine the hardship and discord that this man saw in his lifetime. And still, he managed to forge ahead in his time and win the Nobel Peace Prize in his day. We still look to that brief statement by Nicholas M. Butler for hope.

In times of adversity, optimism is a conscious choice. It is a courageous action and a courageous attitude. Google defines optimism as “1. hopefulness and confidence about the future successful outcome of something” and “2. the belief that good must ultimately prevail over evil in the universe.”

Optimism is not blind ignorance, nor is it a light hearted decision. Pessimism is not blind hatred, nor is it a permanent mindset. People will argue with you about this. Name callers will call optimists “fools.” Name callers will call pessimists “downers.” And then some. But we don’t need to label ourselves into one of these two categories FOREVER. We can think about it and decide. Faith and reflection are required for this kind of clarity. We need to choose how we want to think and how we want to live.

Let me give you an example. My mother called herself a pessimist. She told me her first thought every morning when she opened her eyes in bed was “I’m still here.” She explained that she was surprised that she didn’t somehow die during the night. (Note that she believed this when she was healthy.) Now an optimist could think the exact same thought “I’m still here” with a different mindset. “I’m still here” could mean that I am grateful for another day to live in this world.

In these days of great adversity in the world, we need more optimists. How to shift our thinking when we are deeply discouraged by the state of affairs? Take a break from the news. Take positive actions to make a difference. Avoid complainers. Listen to inspiring music. Read inspiring stories. Watch inspiring Ted Talks by real inspiring people. Follow the underdogs. Get enough sleep. Eat well. Exercise well. Tell your fears and worries to a supportive friend. Be a positive role model to children. Rise up with hope.Have faith.

Optimism is the choice to shine your light. Realism is that some days it will shine brighter than others. Faith is knowing that your light is forever present to share with others. Like a sunrise.