Optimism vs. Pessimism vs. Realism

Today’s sunrise has been put on hold.

If you follow Evelyne Holingue, you are aware that she’s participating in the April A-to-Z thing. A-To-Z calls for a blog post every day in April except Sundays, except April 1st which was a Sunday, and was Easter but still required a post because calendars and math had paper and A-to-Z had rock and…well, you know how that goes.

Evelyne is sharing “Twenty-Six Funny, Weird, Vivid French Expressions.” Despite the fact that her ‘A’ expression, on a Sunday that was Easter, involved a snake, I am still following her. I’m not trying to learn French, but understanding stuff that is different from the stuff I do every day is interesting. I like Evelyne’s theme, even though my day job requires me to work with languages and funny, vivid and possibly weird expressions on an almost daily basis. For example:

r := nc reject:[:each | each even]

Thank your lucky stars I’m not going to explain that.

Last Thursday, Evelyne shared the expression: “ÊTRE MAL BARRÉ” for which she offered the best equivalent English expression: “Not standing a chance.” But, when she gave an example of the phrase used in a sentence, she used:

“Je suis mal barré(e): I’m off to a bad start”

I complimented her effort, and in my comment, I added:

I think I like the sense of this expression more than one I frequently use ‘this is not going to end well’ in that it leaves a small amount of room for hope.”

I like it when there’s room for hope.

I am an optimist. I have always been an optimist. I think being an optimist has helped me. If nothing else, being an optimist has helped me not become a pessimist. You might think those two things are mutually exclusive, but it’s a sliding scale. Somewhere in between those opposite ends of the spectrum are people who claim to be realists. I think pessimists are more likely to make that claim. Optimists won’t claim to be realists; it’s not an aspirational goal – it’s closer to defeatism.

On any given bad day, I might lose my optimistic hold on life and accept that “this is not going to end well,” but that’s only a dose of realism creeping in. That is not the same being a pessimist. However, if I only slip as far as: “I’m off to a bad start,” the implication is that thngs might still end well. I think I remain on the optimistic end of the spectrum.

I know…subtle.

That’s OK. Optimism is more subtle than pessimism. Pessimism is often loud and absolute. Optimism is quiet, sometimes silent, and it drifts from absolute certainty to a muted hopefulness. Still, feeling hopeful, even on the inside, is better than embracing doom.

I was going to create an illustration for this post, but since I’ve mentioned “spectrum” a couple of times, let’s just go with that.

Thank you Wikipedia Commons!

If I had to locate the pessimism/optimism boundary, I’d put it, ironically, in the area of the visible spectrum I can’t distinguish very well – somewhere on the greenish side of blue. I would prefer to start with blue, but then that would confuse the whole meaning of “having the blues.” Interestingly enough, Evelyne pointed out in an earlier expression that “…the French see things in black when down when the Americans see or feel them in blue.” That would work for me, because I like blue and I see it as an uplifting color as opposed to a down-in-the-dumps color.

I digress. If you look at the illustration, I think it’s clear that optimism, as I’ve defined it, is the better way to go. From blue down (to the left), we encounter Ultraviolet and Gamma Rays – things that harm and kill. From red forward (to the right) we encounter Infrared and radio waves. Radiation that warms (yes, possibly cooks, but…) and allows us to communicate. This is the area of the spectrum that underpins my livelihood. The Internet lives here, good, bad and otherwise.

I hear the argument the pessimists might be making. “The operative phrase is,as I’ve defined it.’ Who’s to say you’re right?” It’s true, there is no textbook definition of where on the spectrum optimism begins. In fact, I may be the only person to attempt to locate optimism, or any state of mind on the Electromagnetic Spectrum. If that’s so, then my definition rules…until proven otherwise. That’s how optimism works.

The gallery has a few more contrasting pictures from my commute. Gray skies, bright skies, they’re all good days.


  1. Oh Sweet Mother of Pearl … you know how some people are when you get all math-y … that’s me with wavelengths. It’s not even 6 am and my head hurts. Je suis mal barrée. There is no optimism here. Gilles gave up on me with physics a loooong time ago.

    I like the nuisance sign … I think I might aim for the nuisance level today 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I love the reflection in the puddle shot!! 😀And puddles=melted snow. And that’s good. How does that measure on your optimism scale? And the sunrise is brilliant. How nice of him to show up to work for one more day. I consider Earth to be the supreme optimist. Realist. Opportunist. Survivor. 😉Have a great week Dan.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m sorry, Judy. I got carried away with these thoughts. I tried to write this (a while ago) for an SoCS prompt, but too many edits landed it in the scrap heap. If I had published it on a Saturday, you could have washed the science down with a beer.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Well reasoned. And if there’s blue involved you know I’m going to like it. As for being an optimist, I am one with the proviso that we realize that optimism is a continuum– and that what is optimistic in one situation is not so in another. So I adapt, and am as optimistic as the situation calls for.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a really good explanation, Ally, and it blends well with the notion of a spectrum (although I think I’m in trouble with that). I think it’s important to be, as you say: “as optimistic as the situation calls for.” Thanks !

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I consider myself mostly an optimist, with a little pessimism thrown in from time to time…and only a realist when it slaps me in the face. Mixed bag, I am.

    Lovely photos today, Dan. Not to worry, you’ll see morning sun very soon. Just a little longer…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Complain about that sign while drinking alcohol in the park? Yup. You’re a nuisance. Your sunrise photos always turn out so good. I gotta practice more. Always look on the bright side of life, Dan.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I always look on the bright side, Lois. My wife rolls hers eyes sometimes, but I think there’s always something to look for. In a week or so, I’ll be missing the sunrise, as it will be up before I leave for work. I like driving to work in the light, but I will miss seeing the pretty skies.


  6. Dan – gee you are all over the map here with your metaphors. Gryffindor gets 5 points for enthusiasm. It is a good thing I had my coffee poured for this adventure. A few points to add – the line for optimism starts when one gets out of bed in the morning. As for gloomy days the proper answer is ‘it all depends on who you glue me to.’ And in closing your pictures of light reflecting in the puddles mark you for ever and always as an optimist. Happy Monday.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks John. I blame Linda G. Hill. This was originally going to be an SoCS post – too many edits happened and I stuck it on the shelf until Evelyene gave me the incentive to finish it. I’m keeping the bonus points, though. Anybody who can say “Happy Monday” has to be an optimist.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! Sorry for the diagrams, maybe I should have drawn my own. The photos do show the contrast I was going for, although I like both the fog and the sunrise. I guess that’s what it means to be an optimist.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Science was never my strong point! I’ve always considered myself an optimist, but as the years have piled up, I do feel pessimistic sometimes. And sometimes I have felt that I was approaching the situation realistically. So I’m a hodge-podge, or maybe some would say a fence sitter, or maybe I’m just me!!

    Love all these photos showing off light both natural and artificial. The reflections, especially the puddle!!!

    So, does that sign mean that my neighbor, the one I think is a nuisance, can’t ever go to that park? Woohoo, I am definitely optimistic! Lol.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Ginger. I live in hope of a science/math post where everybody says “ooh, I totally get that!” – See, optimist.

      Yes, your neighbor, and mine are not allowed to visit Great River Part…EVER!

      I try to stay optimistic. I get a bit funky over projects at work that don’t seem to be on a glide path to a good landing, but like everything that was ever up, these, too will come down at some point.

      Have a great week!


  8. I don’t know how many times I’ve tried to include something about the electromagnetic spectrum in one of my posts only to get all bogged down in the details…

    I tend to wait until things have fallen apart and are lying in a heap, then say “well, that went well”…

    And I also like the sign.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You might be the only one that can appreciate the Smalltalk code, John. I guess I crossed the boarder of acceptable science.

      “well, that went well” is a good after-you-realize comments. At least it shows you didn’t lose your sense of humor.


  9. Such wonderful pictures! Love those reflections! Have you seen the movie Smoke? There’s a character in Smoke who takes a picture of the same street corner at the same angle at the same time of day every day for years and puts those pictures in an album. It sounds odd, but it’s brilliant.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Must admit I just glanced at the spectrum part, but I can identify with being an optimist. I am one most of the time and even when I slip into pessimism, from there it’s an upward slid until my default position is once again reached. Several inches of snow on the ground here this morning, but it’s already melting away, just as winter is finally (we can but hope optimistically) melting into the warmer part of spring.



    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Janet. I see that I crossed the line on too-much-Science. I’ll figure this out at some point.

      All the recent snow here melted almost the same day that it fell.


  11. I am, once more, behind reading the bloggers who support me the most. Thank you, Dan for linking my series to your post du jour. If I had thought twice I would have picked a better expression or a least graphic one for the first letter :)
    I really like the way you tie the A to Z challenge and a couple of my expressions to your theme. Well done.
    Of course, who wouldn’t fall under the spell of the gorgeous gallery of photos? I’m a sucker for anything nature. Witnessing the effort of light to go through fog is beautiful. I will always drop anything to watch the sun rise.
    Thank you again for highlighting my series.
    The expression for tomorrow will win over pessimism.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I’m a pessimist and so when things go well, I’m always pleasantly surprised. I also like foggy shots. Too much sun and I can never get a good composition – course, I am a total amateur.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I’m also an optimist. When The Mister’s pessimism gets to me, it reminds me just how optimistic I am. It’s good to be an optimist when you’re a worrier. I don’t know how pessimistic worriers cope. Reality is okay, but imagining, dreaming is better.
    Wavelengths are awesome. Nice diagram.
    Ya know, I don’t love the sunsets, and especially not the sunrises like other people seem to, but you know what I do love? The glow. The glow, oh western light making everything golden, yeah, I dig that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t worry, but I would agree, a pessimistic worrier would be a hard combo. I think you might be the only person liking the diagram. I’m gonna give you bonus points for that! Imagining is so necessary.

      I do like sunrises and sunset and I like the warm glow they give things

      Thanks! I hope you have a good Tuesday!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I like the spectrum. I think blue should be the optimist’s colour. Blue skies are awesome. Blue jeans, blue shirts . . . When I was in high school, the bullies used the phrase “You will see red” to mean that they would pound you to dirt. “If I catch you, you will see red.” So, for me, red is the colour you see when you are endangered.
    Concerning the spectrum, back in 1996, a new student joined our class, and in those days we were wary of new students because we thought they might be so clever as to beat us in exams. We didn’t like new students beating us in exams. During an introduction to a new topic in science, the teacher asked us to give the collective name of all the colours in a rainbow, the new student raised his hand and when he was given the opportunity to speak, he said “ROYGBIV”. The teacher said no. His hand shot up one more time and he said “VIBGYOR.” Again the teacher said no.
    I didn’t know what he was talking about, I had never heard of those terms, and I was wondering about him. I thought he was very clever and he was surely going to beat us in exams. I was beginning to be scared of him. I raised my hand timidly and said “Colour spectrum”. I got it. Later on, we learned that ROYGBIV stands for red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. It was so funny and we laughed at the new student until he was mad at us. Some other guy in class started calling him VIBGYOR and it stuck for the rest of his days in school. Ha, ha!


  15. I think you have to be an optimist to be a Jack of All Trades. When ‘Oh yeah, I could do that’ is the beginning thought about something for which you have neither the skill nor experience, it’s only optimism that gets you through. Although, you do run into a wall of realism a bit too frequently.
    I love that nuisance sign. Positively invites shenanigans.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I thibk your positive words and way you write are a shining beacon of light, Dan.
    I mainly stick with optimism and it’s way out of things makes me happy. Mid-day at work, I may “see the light at the end of the tunnel,” saying this out loud reminds my brain to think positively. 🌞
    When I am a little weary of people’s work or political complaints, I like to smile and say to myself, “My friend Barney’s cup overflows but at least mine is still full.” My youngest daughter told me my guy friend (awhile back) had “his glass overflowing.” We aren’t close since he also drinks quite a lot, which is hard on me to watch.
    I worked at a battered women’s shelter and the nicest social worker helped me with my statements I made in court as the Child Advocate. She told me my “sense of empathy needed to be carefully tempered with the reality of many of my cases.” Two very real and sad cases left me bereft, so I resigned. It was hard on my psyche.
    Believe it or not, I got this illustration today! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • After following you for a long time, Robin, I think I can understand how your empathy could overwhelm you in a job where realism rules the day but peoples’ lives hang in the balance. I can’t see you wanting to accept less than all that could be.

      I can pull back from optimism and accept reality when it hits me. Sometimes, it has to hit pretty hard, but I know it’s capable of doing just that. I still try to be ready to duck. Thanks for following, for catching-up and for sharing your perspective. That’s what makes this community such a wonderful place to be.


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