The Humble Optimist


We long for good things to happen to us:
A torrent of love to sweep us away,
Trips in faraway places,
Pleasure in its many forms,
Money in the bank,
Books published to critical acclaim,
A healthy life well lived.
But what about all the things that don’t happen to us?
The illnesses that don’t throw us into hospital,
The car crashes that don’t paralyze us,
The earthquakes that don’t bury us under a mound of rubble,
The fires that don’t burn us,
The terrorist attacks that don’t blow us to bits,
The legs and arms we don’t break,
The lovers that don’t ditch us,
The toothaches we don’t have,
The extinction we don’t face.
You could have died of a heart attack before you finished reading this line,
Or been disabled by a stroke.
You could have been blown to bits,
Or burned to ash.
You could have suffered in so many ways.
Takes a bit of presence
To see the bad things that could have been
But that are not.
That insight alone won’t make you happy,
But it cannot leave you indifferent to the pleasant nothing-new.
This is as good a time as any to feel good about
all those problems you don’t have.
When’s the last time you enjoyed the toothache you didn’t have?


12 thoughts on “The Humble Optimist

  1. Very true and inspiring 🙂

    I’ve had the habit for years now, when told how “still young” and “having so much time ahead of me” I was, to tell people I could cross the street, get hit by a car, and be gone. There is no guarantee I’ll live to an old age… I am glad I am alive today! 🙂

  2. There’s a lot to be said for existentialism, counting your blessings and feeling the warmth of the sun on your back is part of it! Well said! Human beings are notoriously unsatisfied with whatever we have and always lusting after those things we don’t have 🙂

  3. There are in fact so many things things which could have happen but despite we have to chug on. Thanks sharing a wonderfully worded poem.

  4. How magnificently beautiful it is to be alive! To breathe and feel and experience all that this Earth has to offer. And though the toothache has not eluded me entirely, I’m glad I’m here- reading your words and writing my own.

  5. Wow!! Not just an eye opener, but a brain popper too!! We are so accustomed to hearing the phrase “Be grateful for what we have”, but here, you highlight that we too, sould be grateful for the mishaps and misfortunes we do not have. A truly powerful statement!!!

  6. You have captured a snapshot of a path less taken. It will be my signpost along the way to remind me to be more appreciative. Thank you, Vincent.

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