Pessimism is the habit of looking on the negative side of things. When witnessing events, a pessimist will tend to notice the potential for loss or despair, rather than the potential for happiness or joy. A habitual pessimist, often without even realising it, will interpret events in a way likely to invite depression, sadness, and even anger and frustration.
If we want to escape the clutches of pessimism, here is a meditation which can help.
THE FIREWORK MEDITATION
Contemplate a firework’s life cycle.
Perhaps start with imagining all the raw materials lying in their natural state around the Earth.
Then imagine workers bringing those ingredients together, and fabricating them into a design which we call a firework.
Then imagine the firework being sold, and brought to you.
Now imagine it being lit, and launching itself into the air, far above you.
Then imagine it exploding into a beautiful and resonant flower of colour, lighting up the sky and illuminating the land below.
Then imagine the firework burning out, and returning to Earth, until it lands on the ground, and the embers fade and die away.
A MATTER OF PERSPECTIVE
Understand that this story is somewhat cyclical. Although it seems to end with the death of the firework, actually what is left makes the raw materials for something else. In this way, what seems to be birth and death, is more accurately seen as a continuous cycle of shifting identities.
Understand, also, that how you feel about the story is very much a matter of perspective and bias. Many people go through their lives getting attached to certain fireworks, and then being disappointed when those fireworks fade and die. Witness the person who seeks an endless chain of lovers, frequently being disappointed when the spark of romance fades. Witness, too, the person who seeks and endless chain of food, drink or drugs, repeatedly disappointed when their brief flights of fullness end up in the return of the same cravings.
YOU HAVE A CHOICE OF PERSPECTIVE
You will have your own set of fireworks, a collection of things that you value. You will have noticed that your things, too, flow through this cycle of stages. Depending on which stage you focus on, you can find your attitude and mood changing. Roughly speaking, it goes like this.
Those who see only raw materials are unattached to life. They experience peace.
Those who see only creation and design are attached to the newness of life. They experience interest.
Those who see only sale and possession are attached to ownership and control. They experience passion and anger.
Those who see only launch and birth are attached to potential. They experience hope.
Those who see only flowering and illumination are attached to beauty. They experience awe.
Those who see only fading and dying are attached to death. They experience despair.
Now consider whether you are stuck in one particular stage or perspective.
Pessimists tend to linger on only certain aspects of the cycle. Commonly, they may focus on dying. Occasionally, they may focus on sale and possession, and therefore alternate between optimism and pessimism depending on whether their acquisitive perspective is being satisfied or frustrated.
Have a think about where you tend to sit in the flow of things. Where does your attention linger? Where is your attachment? How does your perspective make you feel?
If we can understand that there are many possible perspectives on the life cycle, then we can understand that we have a cognitive choice of perspective.
We don’t have to be trapped in any particular set of emotions.
In particular, if we can see the whole cycle for what it is, then all of our emotions and experiences will be moderated by the understanding of a wider view. That is how wisdom helps to keep our unruly attachments at bay.
Everything you see and experience is like a firework. It comes and goes, and then other things come and go. Try to be aware of the whole cycle – don’t get falsely attached to part of it.