In Noble Leaders Arise, just yesterday, I offered up on Nobility as strength of character… and I do humbly suggest the read and reflect. That said, I awoke this morning to a powerful, personal remembrance found in these words of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá:… shared in his Paris Talks in 1911:
All over the world one hears beautiful sayings extolled and noble precepts admired. All men say they love what is good, and hate everything that is evil! Sincerity is to be admired, whilst lying is despicable. Faith is a virtue, and treachery is a disgrace to humanity. It is a blessed thing to gladden the hearts of men, and wrong to be the cause of pain. To be kind and merciful is right, while to hate is sinful. Justice is a noble quality and injustice an iniquity. That it is one’s duty to be pitiful and harm no one, and to avoid jealousy and malice at all costs. Wisdom is the glory of man, not ignorance; light, not darkness! It is a good thing to turn one’s face toward God, and foolishness to ignore Him. That it is our duty to guide man upward, and not to mislead him and be the cause of his downfall. There are many more examples like unto these. But all these sayings are but words and we see very few of them carried into the world of action. On the contrary, we perceive that men are carried away by passion and selfishness, each man thinking only of what will benefit himself even if it means the ruin of his brother. They are all anxious to make their fortune and care little or nothing for the welfare of others. They are concerned about their own peace and comfort, while the condition of their fellows troubles them not at all. Unhappily this is the road most men tread. But Bahá’ís must not be thus; they must rise above this condition. Actions must be more to them than words. By their actions they must be merciful and not merely by their words. They must on all occasions confirm by their actions what they proclaim in words. Their deeds must prove their fidelity, and their actions must show forth Divine light. Let your actions cry aloud to the world that you are indeed Bahá’ís, for it is actions that speak to the world and are the cause of the progress of humanity. If we are true Bahá’ís speech is not needed. Our actions will help on the world, will spread civilization, will help the progress of science, and cause the arts to develop. Without action nothing in the material world can be accomplished, neither can words unaided advance a man in the spiritual Kingdom. It is not through lip-service only that the elect of God have attained to holiness, but by patient lives of active service they have brought light into the world. Therefore strive that your actions day by day may be beautiful prayers. Turn towards God, and seek always to do that which is right and noble. Enrich the poor, raise the fallen, comfort the sorrowful, bring healing to the sick, reassure the fearful, rescue the oppressed, bring hope to the hopeless, shelter the destitute! This is the work of a true Bahá’í, and this is what is expected of him. If we strive to do all this, then are we true Bahá’ís, but if we neglect it, we are not followers of the Light, and we have no right to the name. God, who sees all hearts, knows how far our lives are the fulfilment of our words.
Whether one chooses to be Baha’i or not, whether one practices any Faith or not… these words speak to what I suggest is the difference in positivity and Optimism. Positivity sees only the good, and it is “all good”. Positivity tells us to “avoid negative people” never realizing nor acknowledging that being “positive” or “negative” is a spectrum. We may be positive on some things and negative on others. Positivity has a toxicity that sticks its proverbial head in the sand or into the clouds.
Optimism sees all good, bad and indifferent… and knows we will get there, somehow, sometime, with some or a lot of effort. It understands the Infinite Game. But, following on the words of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, in order to make a difference in the world, we have to perceive a need for same. We have to see the poor, the fallen, the sorrowful, the sick, the fearful, the oppressed, the hopeless, and the destitute. Avoidance of anything negative never allows us to face any problems, nor seize opportunities. To better the world implies it needs bettering; and we have to see and acknowledge that.. not somehow pretend or ignore it away.
Avoiding negative people creates encampments of positivity. I have no doubt, and fully agree, that we should surround ourselves with people pf Optimism and Courage. We need that space, but not as some harbor in which our ship never sails from. The purpose of our ship is to set sail and engage the waters; the world. Harbor is for rest and reset. The Ocean is our home. The world needs actions over words, meaning over meme. The world needs “pure and goodly deeds”. It needs us to strive in the face of Atlas falling. It needs us striving that our actions day by day may be those beautiful prayers, individually and collectively at home, school, work, business and community.
This is not an attack on “positive thinking”. Optimism engages such. But, it is a reminder that thoughts and words are one thing, action another. It is a reminder that the “betterment of the world can be accomplished through pure and goodly deeds, through commendable and seemly conduct”. It is a reminder that we need to see and engage problems and issues in the world in order to address them. When I had my stroke in 2015, my own reset had to acknowledge and work with same. You cannot address what you will not see. This is, in my opinion, one of the beautiful things of the Global Goals.
They detail what is needed, locally and globally; 17 areas of need, identified, acknowledge and documented. Positivity would have us practice our ignorance of any problems, so long as we are “OK” and can keep our “normal”. That is a hideous comfort zone… dangerously so. Optimism sees the problems … and the opportunities in addressing them. Noble minded entrepreneurship is such in action.
So, let us not jump on the toxicity train of positivity. Let us engage the opportunity of Optimism… that powerful capacity to truly see the world and to have deeds, not words, be our adorning. The world needs that. Our children and descendants do. Indeed and in deed, when JFK said, “We have the power to make this the best generation of mankind in the history of the world or to make it the last.”… it is ever more true now. That said, like Gene Roddenberry (this is his 100th Anniversary of his birth, celebrated in daily quotes), I believe in Humanity, locally and globally. Humanity is our highest standard. Inhumanity is our lowest. And, with this the 100th Anniversary of the passing of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá … I am reminded that Optimism matters in believing and acting upon that Humanity in us all. It matters in seeing where we are and where we need to go in order to “get there”. That requires us to see with such actioned Optimism and forego that putrid and toxic positivity. Then, we can better the world. We have work to do, and that is a “good thing”.
Optimism over positivity? You betcha.
Peace, passion and prosperity…
“Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.
Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing. ― Abraham Lincoln