Optimism – the Better Way

There are very few things I truly hate. Cynicism is number one on that list. According to Mr. Webster’s 1913 dictionary, a cynic is “one who holds views resembling those of the Cynics; a snarler; a misanthrope; particularly, a person who believes that human conduct is directed, either consciously or unconsciously, wholly by self-interest or self-indulgence, and that appearances to the contrary are superficial and untrustworthy.”

To constantly see the world in the worst light, always suspicious of the motives and actions of others – sounds like a living hell to me. Most cynics mask their cynicism under the guise of “realism.” And, yes, I realize the world is full of dreadful things – crime, hunger, oppression – but that doesn’t mean we only have two options: cynicism or naiveté. Either extreme is undesirable. Why not choose the middle road? We call it optimism. Optimism is “a habitual tendency or a present disposition to take the most hopeful view of future events, and to expect a favorable outcome even when unfavorable outcomes are possible.” To always hope for the best, while still seeing the world as it is; to see the good in others and the world around us – that is the better way.

And who knows? Perhaps if there were more true optimists in this world who stood firm in what they believe, perhaps there would be fewer things to be cynical about. If the optimists would all get up and do something, we could change the world, make it a better place. A happier, brighter place for everyone to live in, cynics and optimists alike. And we don’t have to start by making big changes – we don’t have to solve world hunger tomorrow. A good place to start is in the lives of those around you. Can you make someone smile today? Can you do something nice for someone else? Say a kind word? Encourage someone who’s feeling down? If you cheer someone up, maybe they’ll make the next person smile, and who knows how far your one kind word can spread? Let’s change the world, one seed of hope and joy at a time.

Finding Neverland

finding neverland-neverland-11985156-351-450“It’s magical. Thank you.” So says Peter Llewelyn Davies to J.M. Barrie about his play Peter Pan. And so say I to the creators of Finding Neverland. This movie is a beautifully sweet and riotously funny look at the man behind the “irrepressible spirit of youth.”

Although he’s already a renowned playwright, Barrie’s latest creation is a flop. Then he meets Sylvia Llewelyn Davies and her 4 fatherless boys. He finds himself drawn to them, especially Peter, in whom he sees perhaps a reflection of himself. He spends nearly every afternoon all summer with Sylvia, George, Jack, Peter, and Michael. They dress up and play pretend – pirates, explorers, cowboys and Indians. Uncle Jim, as the boys call Barrie, is really just a boy himself and he teaches them to soar on the wings of imagination.

Sylvia, beautifully portrayed by Kate Winslet, is a wonderful mother. Fun, loving, and perfectly imperfect, she is adored by her free-spirited sons. Each of the 4 boys is perfectly cast and wonderfully played. Genuine, authentic, innocent, and fun, they are a joy to watch, especially Freddie Highmore as Peter. Johnny Depp, as always, is magnificent. He so totally inhabits his role, it becomes difficult to remember that he’s ever played any other character. His James Barrie is fun, creative, imaginative, cheerful, innocent – in short, the total opposite of the story’s 2 stuffed shirts. Mrs. Barrie is a shallow, self-centered creature who married James because he is a famous author, not for love. Their marriage is therefore rather strained. The other disagreeable character is Sylvia’s mother, Mrs. Du Maurier (superbly portrayed by Julie Christie). The friction between her and James, however, does not stem from self-centeredness, but rather from love of her daughter and grandsons. It is this capacity for love that, in the end, turns her into a sympathetic figure. Dustin Hoffman is brilliant as Barrie’s producer, Charles Frohman. His dry humor and wit is unmatched.

In conclusion, Finding Neverland is a magical, beautiful, and poignant portrait of life, love, family, and imagination.finding neverland

Sunflower, Ray of Sunshine

450px_Sunflower_2007The sunflower is my flower. I love many flowers of course, but sunflowers and I have a special connection. Bright and cheery and energetic, they and I share several personality traits. Flowers don’t have a personality in the literal sense of course – and yet, somehow, they kinda do. Seems to me that sunflowers, if they could talk, would say things like “Oh, what a beautiful morning! Good morning, sun! Good morning, birds! Happy day!” Don’t you think so? Standing tall, drinking in the sunshine, cheering all who see them – if I were a flower, I’d be a sunflower.

I remember the first time I saw sunflowers up close. My best friend’s mother planted a few rows of them in her vegetable garden. I was only about 3½ feet tall and they seemed huge. We’d play in and around them; had a grand old time. It was especially fun to play tag amongst the tall green stems. I tried to play “Jack and the beanstalk” once – the poor sunflower didn’t survive. I was in pretty hot water for that particular escapade. It was still a lot of fun.

Now I have sunflower wallpaper on my laptop. Lots of sunflower wallpapers. Each one always makes me smile. They’re so happy, that I can’t help being happy too. It’s hard to frown when a sunflower is smiling at you. Sunflowers not only look like a small sun, they also turn to face the sun (which is called heliotropism). Perhaps they are attracted to sunlight because of their own cheery disposition. Or perhaps it’s the sunshine that makes them so cheerful. Either way, sunflowers are both beautiful and happy; and they make people happy too. People have all kinds of goals and dreams, and so do I, but what I want more than anything is to be like the sunflower. To be a ray of sunshine wherever I go.