Life Matters | Apr 26,2019
Some famous sayings often express the need for pessimism. Take Murphy’s Law, which states that “if anything can go wrong, it will.”
A lesser-known one is Hofstadter's Law: “everything will take longer than you think it will,” coined by Douglas Hofstadter, an American scholar, which is also sighted as a corollary to Murphy's Law. Other similarly dispiriting sayings are: ”If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something,” or ”Every solution breeds new problems.”
This thought came to my mind after I went to a bank branch in my vicinity, some weeks back. There is nothing like waiting in queues to get one in the funk of depression and pessimism. The worst thing about it is the knowledge that we are actively killing time we will never get back.
It was just before six in the evening, and the bank was about to close. I arrived in a crabby mood, as I expected there would be too many people. It was just that. I was there the day before at the same time, except I had forgotten my bank account book. But it was nearly empty then. I murmured that this happened because I turned up with my book on the second day, wondered aloud why the branch itself did not expect many customers and worked with a single teller.
I waited outside of the building for the good of all of us given the third wave COVID-19 ravaging sub-Saharan Africa. Everyone was wearing masks. Unfortunately, people were packed together. It seems a miracle that the virus has not affected this country as much as it has others.
When my name was finally called, I went in and started to attend to the process of withdrawing money. Right after I took the money and was about to leave, a woman patted my back while calling my name. She was an old friend I had not seen in ages.
I was elated to meet a never seen or heard from friend after she left for France. We headed down to the closest cafe and chatted about the old days and what came about later. She left me infected with enthusiasm. After we went our way, I tried to remember much of her vigour, fighting uphill through all of the challenges life threw her way.
The most fascinating part of her life was when she discovered judo, Japanese martial arts, late in life. She joined her first gym at 36. It became a passion, which was passed on to her son, who now participates in international competitions. A single mother for decades, she is now proud and happy.
“An optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds,” wrote James B. Cabell. ”The pessimist fears this is true.”
As my old friend, some people never take their “rose-coloured glasses” off, seeing the world in a positive light. The complexity of the time we live in may not give one immediate reason to be cheerful, but it is the concept of hope and determination that helps some of us be more optimistic than others.
Indeed, a movie called Interstellar, which came out in 2014, explains that even Murphy’s Law is not as pessimistic as it seems. Everything that can go wrong will go wrong means that anything will happen; the good and the bad.
Therefore, Eudaemonia should be the maxim of the day. The Eudaemonic Pie, a book by Thomas A. Bass, brings what is termed a rare but useful word to mind, “a state of felicity or bliss obtained by a life lived in accordance with reason.”
It was coined by Aristotle in that sense, deriving from the Greek word for happiness. It applies to present-day Ethiopia as it did to the Greeks and everyone else in between.
PUBLISHED ON Jul 24,2021 [ VOL 22 , NO 1108]
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