Most people like to see themselves as an optimist (upbeat and hopeful), a pessimist (doubtful), or a “realist” (a whiny pessimist that refuses to admit their place in life). The litmus test has always been the glass of water. The optimist says it’s half full. The pessimist says half empty. The realist will start complaining about what does it matter, someone just drink it.
I recently finished The Life of Pi (in short a 16 year old Indian boy is stuck on a life raft with a bengal tiger). Without too many spoilers the book finishes on a very very open ended note. I was deeply engrossed in the book to where I was jumping sentences because the suspense was killing me. (Note: If you go to check out the book, do not be put off by nor fall in love with the description that it is a story that “will make you believe in God”.) And when I got to the end, it didn’t exactly leave me dissatisfied but I did think about the story for days. I mean I’m writing a blog about it! But it made me realize that every opinion formed on even the most minuscule decisions on life are based off a every experience we’ve ever had. Nobody will think the way you do because nobody has been through every situation you have been.
Example, me and the BFF went to see the movie Doubt. Based in the 60s in a newly de-segregated Catholic school, a nun thinks the priest is diddling the little black boy. The movie plays out and me and BFF sit there in silence. Gathering facts and circumstantial evidence and watching the characters and doing the mashed potato (it was based in the 60s!). The movie is over, with no definite answer as to whether or not the boy got Sandusky’d (too soon?), and we stretch, leave the theater, get into the lobby and simultaneously yell:
Her: “OMG he totally did it”
Me: “It was fishy but he was totally innocent”
US: “HOW COULD YOU THINK THAT”
How crazy! We sit and watched the same movie. Saw the same tubby Phillip Seymour Hoffman and his creepy long nails. Saw the same Viola Davis on screen for like 7 minutes but get nominated for an Oscar cause she does the snotty nose cry thing (see: The Help). And yet we came out with totally different opinions.
Which brings me back to Life of Pi. Depending on if you are a pessimist you’d basically think the story was a pile of crap and waist of time to read. The more optimistic person would think Pi’s story is one of hope and struggle and despite whatever religious beliefs you follow makes you feel good about life. Yeah you might be having a bad hair day but you’re not stuck in a life raft with a man-eating tiger. And the “realist” is just all “if he was on the boat with a tiger then why didn’t he just kill the tiger and eat it”.
In the week that it’s been since I’ve read the book, I’ve felt all three ways. I’ve tried to be logistical and think about a boy and a tiger in a boat and how physics and nature would come into place. I get mad that I wasted my time reading it. I am glad I read the book and would consider re-reading it at a different point in life and see what I take from it that time. I don’t subscribe to any labels. I like open endedness. I like finite endings. I don’t like the term “realist”. It’s so hard to explain why I feel ways about certain things because I’m a sum of everything that I’ve read and heard and done and have seen. How could you even really understand?
And by the way, the glass is full. Half water. Half air. 100% full. 🙂
Do you consider yourself an optimist or pessimist? Do you think the label “realist” applies to you in a way that you are NOT a pessimist? Do you ever flip flop? Do you like open endedness or do you need to know exactly what the answer is? Did the end of Inception drive you crazy? Discuss. Let’s be existentialist for a while.