Bill Moyers and Optimism


Recently, I had the great fortune to hear Bill Moyers speak as part of the extraordinary UCSB Arts and Lectures series.

It had been a bad (BAD!) day.  Feeling rotten and generally miserable. The last thing I wanted to do was get dressed and go out in public. However, I felt compelled to go to this lecture.  It was that persistently wonderful intuition speaking to me.  I’m so glad that I listened!

To begin his lecture, Bill Moyers gave the most beautiful description of an ideal community:  that which gathers around a campfire to share in an exchange of ideas. Isn’t that so lovely?

A great deal of his talk focused on the concept of optimism and his persistent state of it. (Hello, Silver Linings!) This topic came about because he was reecently asked to justify his optimism, despite a seemingly omnipresent culture of hostility and cruelty.

He said that optimism is embedded in every person’s psyche and that the tragedies of this life would be unspeakable, but for the inherent goodness of people in the world.  Yes!  Yes!  Yes!

This beautiful idea of inherent goodness of people reminded me of the time when The Husband and I volunteered to create sand bags after a devastating fire in Santa Barbara.  This particular fire destroyed hundereds of homes. To add insult to injury, a few weeks after the fire, the few homes that remained were threatened by mudslides resulting from rain. I wondered: How much more could a family take?

Fires are a real, seemingly constant threat during the summer and fall months of Southern California.  It is a threat that is very (very!) difficult to become accustomed to.  While sandbagging, I struck up a conversation with the man working next to me.  We talked about living with this constant threat. He told me that he was born and raised in Santa Barbara and that “you get used to the fires because it’s so extraordinary to live here”.  Really?  Even with the constant threat?  I asked him if he had ever lost his home.  He told me that he just lost his home in this fire. As in JUST. He went on to tell me that “my home is gone.  The guy’s house on the hill is still standing.  I want to do whatever I can do to help him.” How’s that for inherent goodness?

Back to Bill Moyers who told the rapt audience that heros are all around us and that we all harbor a hero within ourselves.  Everyday, he said, people do selfless things for others.  Sometimes it takes the worst of times to see people do the best of things.

Which leads me to my preparation for my third round of chemotherapy tomorrow.  We ALL live with constant threat in our lives. One day I didn’t have FBC (F-Bomb Breast Cancer) and the next day I did.  Devastation comes in all different shapes, sizes and colors.  We need to harness not only the hero within ourselves, but celebrate the heros around us.

I have had an extraordinarily heroic support system getting me through FBC.  I couldn’t do it without these heroes, including the HOTY (Husband of the Year) who comes to every single appointment with me; the friend who will entertain our daughter, “Finally Five”, when I’m feeling rotten; my Oncologist who told me today that “we will do whatever it takes to support you”; the friends who feed me to pack on a few extra pounds before the nausea set in; the feedback on Brookside Buzz.

My list of heros goes on and on and on.  These are the people (and one big, black dog) who fuel me, who give me strength.

I am full, brimming over, in fact, with gratitude for these heroes in my life. Despite the trials and tribulations of FBC, I see goodness (in the form of Silver Linings) everywhere, every day.  I wish the same for you (except the FBC part!).

If you call your troubles experiences, and remember that ever experience develops some latent force within you, you will grow vigorous and happy, however adverse your circumstances may seem to be.

– John Heywood

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