With Jupiter in its home sign of Sagittarius, it only seems appropriate to talk about one of the archetypal qualities of Jupiter: Optimism, the ability to be hopeful and confident about the future! The reason this is important is that right now it appears that our society is becoming increasingly pessimistic. How can a society prosper if its populace is teeming with pessimism? This kind of thinking is dangerous to society. What is odd to me about this is that there is such potential for more optimism given the proclivity for life to be full of diversity, innovation, options and creativity. What then is driving this increase in pessimism and what needs to happen to foster an increase in optimism?
It can be noted that both optimism and pessimism arise from the narratives we have come to believe as truth. These narratives come from our family, friends and our everyday society. It used to be that the main sources of these narratives typically were derived from the media such as TV and newspapers. But, in the 21st century most of the narratives today come via the internet. We are exposed to enormous amounts of information which you would think would increase the diversity of thoughts and ideas to solve problems. To some degree this has happened. However, with the increase of algorithmic programs integrated into various platforms such as Google, YouTube or Facebook the diversity of the information we are receiving is diminishing. For example, when you search one topic in YouTube the user is immediately suggested other videos on that same topic. Over time this has the effect of decreasing diversity by creating lopsided viewpoints because we are being encouraged to only find information that support and validate our present beliefs and biases. This limited set of viewpoints often creates an ‘us vs. them’ feeling which contributes to a state of polarization within us. As polarity increases, diversity decreases. Without diversity, pessimism becomes amplified because there are no new solutions to the problems we face today. We simply go over the same viewpoints repeatedly, constantly looking for agreement. Simultaneously, this causes an increase in fear. There is an increase of fear as we can’t see any possible solution outside our already existing beliefs. This perception then becomes our reality.
The next issue that occurs when we only receive information that we already agree with is that we think for ourselves less and less. This results in our being easily influenced by external sources, and thus openness to new ideas and concepts decreases which increases fear much further. In other words, in this state one is no longer an independent thinker but dependent on the narratives of others as to what they believe. It is ironic and perhaps a little disturbing that the internet which has the potential to give us the freedom to discover so many new ideas and possibilities of thinking is being used in a way that results in its opposite, including the rise of pessimism.
One innovative thinker of the 20th century was Terrance McKenna. He felt that “We are a part of a universal adventure. What happens to us decrees the fate of a vast number of universal processes and circumstances.” In reading his writings and listening to him you could tell he lived in the “Awe” or optimism of Life. He saw the great potential for diversity, creativity and the openness to the new while also being aware that one of human’s biggest limitations were their own minds. In fact, wouldn’t the experience of optimism include the awareness that one of our greatest capacities is our ability to transform our relationship with thinking and beliefs, itself? McKenna knew that deconditioning oneself from belief, some might call cynicism, just makes good sense. To be open to new solutions, new ways of thinking then would be part of the experience of optimism. McKenna was one of those rare people who was constantly pushing beyond the boundaries of his own mind. He once said, “we are creating a world that celebrates diversity. This celebrates the uniqueness of every person.” He could see that our universe was continuing to evolve both in complexity and diversity. With increased diversity comes novelty and new ideas which help expand our current idea of what is possible while simultaneously moving us beyond the boundaries of our limited viewpoints and biases. It is this novelty that leads to innovation.
Consider for a moment presidential candidate Andrew Yang. He is proposing brand new and innovative ways for problems in our country regarding income inequality such as the Universal Basic Income (UBI) where every adult US citizen would receive $1,000 a month from the government. His proposal is intriguing. This is not an endorsement of him for president but a wonderful example of someone who is open to thinking outside the box, by suspending beliefs of what has been done and seeing what may be possible. He is inviting us all to begin looking at life from a brand-new perspective, taking us outside of what we either knew or had considered before. Yang is also implementing some of the changes and innovations he has thought about so he is not just a ‘thinker.’ His mind is open and that is what is at the heart of optimism. The experience of optimism increases when we suspend our judgements, evaluations and preconceived notions of the way we think things should be. It is the movement toward openness of the new and leads to a significant reduction of fear. From this space we can consider new ideas about approaching life or be inspired by someone like Yang who has come up with a new solutions for many old problems. Making new ideas real then, is what makes this world a better place for ourselves and others. We may find that, in fact, we might only be as limited as our thinking is. “Nature is full of interest and affection for humanity. It is up to us to discover that humanity in ourselves because we have gone so sour on the rational path…” ~ Terrance McKenna