An earworm crept into my mind today and I can’t seem to shake it. It’s not too annoying, though. It’s the refrain from the Monty Python song, “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life”. Although the song presents some fair amount of commentary about life, the refrain is simply continuous repetition of the song’s title. It’s very upbeat with a cheery whistle as accompaniment. Whenever I hear it, I can’t resist smiling.
One of the verses sums up why I love this song:
“For life is quite absurd
And death’s the final word
You must always face the curtain with a bow
Forget about your sin
Give the audience a grin
Enjoy it, it’s your last chance anyhow”
The end credits song that plays at the end of the 1979 Monty Python movie “Life of Brian”, is an absurd tune that has a fair amount of stoicism within it. It contradicts saccharine, Polyannaish, over the top optimism without falling into dark, desperate pessimism. Its pop-wisdom is appealing in its irony.
At times, we may feel disappointed and emotionally wounded as a result of life’s slings and arrows. Other people may aim sharp, hurtful words at us or act in unpleasant ways. We naturally feel some measure of heartbreak, pain, and sadness. Due to the fact that such events seemingly come out of nowhere and are unexpected makes them poignant. It is important to acknowledge such emotional assaults without going overboard and acting like a drama queen.
While affirming the pain, it’s essential to maintain focus on living an effective, mindful life. That is to retain a fair amount of realistic optimism–being honest about pitfalls and risks yet feeling confident about productively moving forward in life.
Realistic optimism does not smother reality with rainbows and unicorns escapist mentality. From time to time we encounter pain and troubles. The optimism aspect is the reminder that without a fair amount of suffering, we don’t experience the necessary challenges to help us develop and grow healthy character. When we affirm difficulty we can also see the opportunity to learn from the error and change for the better. The cloud of suffering will eventually evaporate. Clarity and perception will reveal the lesson to learn.
A person who is realistically optimistic pays mindful attention to inner dialogue and ingrained beliefs. Our repetitive thoughts are mantras that enforce limiting, harmful beliefs. Even when we try to consciously inject positive mantras, there is a small, niggling voice that says the positivity is phony. To overcome the internal conflict, we reinforce the positive words with physical action. Backing up intent with action is the most powerful expression of realistic optimism.
Naturally, there are times of real grief. Perhaps a recent loss of a loved one or a career setback has taken place. It’s not healthy to whitewash the pain with happy-talk and denial. We can fully experience the necessary grief without becoming stuck in it for months and years. Realistic optimism acknowledges the pain and also the fact that nobody is exempt from it. We learn to accept our mortal, human circumstances by granting ourselves the right to grieve. Then, when a healthy portion of time has passed, we release the pain and open ourselves to new experiences. There is a certain profound strength in accepting our pain and vulnerability. The wisdom is reinforced when we learn to truly let go and move on.
The “Bright Side of Life” song reminds us that we can feel optimistic without being blind to grim reality. We can envision the big picture with its pitfalls and evil yet keep track of it. We can be proactive without over-defensiveness nor denying reality.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Monty Python. “It’s passed on! This parrot is no more! It has ceased to be! It’s expired and gone to meet it’s maker! This is a late parrot! It’s a stiff! Bereft of life, it rests in peace! If you hadn’t nailed it to the perch, it would be pushing up the daisies! It’s rung down the curtain and joined the choir invisible. This is an ex-parrot!”