Friday, November 16, 2012

Cynical view in art limits perspectives

by Camille Adams, Guest Writer

It seems the glass is always half empty. In recent years, it seems as if pessimism has come to be associated with reason, while optimism is somehow seen as a sign of lesser intelligence.
If academic reading selections are any indicator, the academic community would rather label war zones as the “real” world  than the white picket fences that adorn so many lawns. I don’t believe the “real” world is only composed of the places where tragedy abounds.
However, the books we are often required to read for class seem to only represent this  negative portion of the world.
Heading into my freshman year of high school, I was required to read “The Weight of All Things” by Sandra Benitez, a novel about the El Salvadoran civil war, and “The Iliad,” Homer’s war epic.
That summer, I read more accounts of brutal, horrifying deaths than I have in all of my literary experience. Yet the point of the assignment was supposed to be to identify the “heroic journey” and learn to apply it to my own life.
Only focusing on the horrors of our world limits one’s perspective to a small corner of life experience.
While I acknowledge that such heart-wrenching stories drag us out of our suburban mentality and widen our world view, the constant repetition of such themes actually limits our world view.
Now the world is simply in two parts: one part  suburban and the other gore, violence and poverty.
This method actually contributes to the  “them and us” mentality regarding unfamiliar cultures.
Such novels tell us we should be grateful for what we have, because they have it rough. Tolerance and compassion do not spring from such a lopsided view.
Optimism is  described by the highly rational as unrealistic, simplistic or illogical -  a means of ignoring the “real” world. Well,  based on these readings, in the “real” world, a third of  students are “struggling or suffering” and half are “not hopeful.”
The cure for such discouragement is not to beat  students over the head with the over-rationalized, academic view of the world.
Instead, give them something to read that shows the inherent good in the world.
An optimistic outlook results in extended life expectancy, better coping strategies, enhanced mental and physical health and heightened success in academics, sports and work.
Sure, the world is full of horrifying things. But it can be so much easier to deal with those horrors when you acknowledge the good along with the bad. Then the glass will always be full.