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There are many reasons why one could be down on the prospects for the coming year. Listening to the news, one might think we’re about to all melt in nuclear fire, or that terrorists will soon be overtaking our schools and offices. Each day it seems as if yet another corporation is moving operations to another state, or to another country, and you worry about keeping your job. Perhaps your entire industry is on the verge of being automated, and you face redundancy. The list could go on and on.

There are also many reasons to be optimistic about the coming year. Cancer deaths in the US are down 25% over the past ten years, a single province in Pakistan planted over two billion trees in just two years, and the child poverty rate in the US is now at an all-time low. And hey, rumor has it that George R R Martin’s next volume, The Winds of Winter, may come out this year (for those lamenting the long gap before the next season of Game of Thrones).

In any year, there are good things and there are bad things that happen. It’s true that you cannot control everything that happens to you in life, in love, and in your career. But you can set yourself up for good things to happen by placing yourself in their path. If you don’t look, you’re not likely to find love. If you don’t apply for that job you want, you aren’t likely to get it. If you don’t take a chance on that startup idea you have, it won’t start up. You can do all these things, and things still may not go your way, but they are far more likely to work out if you set yourself up for success.

 

Dave finds himself in dire financial trouble. He prays earnestly to his God to help him out of his predicament. “God, I’m about to lose my car. Please help me. Let me win the lottery.” Lottery night comes, but sadly, Dave is not the winner.

Things go from bad to worse. Without a car to get to work, Dave loses his job. Without a job, his mortgage is foreclosed on, and he loses his home. Without a home, his wife leaves him, taking the kids. After each horrible step in the mounting crisis, he pleads with God to let him win the lottery, but he never does.

Finally, broke, hungry, living on the street, he tries again. “God, please, my life is a wreck. I have no car, no home, no family. Please let me win the lottery just this once so that I can turn my life around. I beseech you.”

Suddenly, a flash of light rends the sky, and the voice of God echoes down from the heavens. “For God’s sake, man, meet me halfway! Buy a ticket!

 

If you plant flowers, you can much more optimistically expect to see flowers in 2018.

 

(image credit: Jose Maria Nieto, originally published in Spanish for New Years Day 2017)

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17 Comments

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  1. Michelle Crapo

    I love flowers.    I used to plant roses…

    The optimist plants flowers.   The pessimist says it will rain today.   The flowers grow.

    It’s an interesting time we live in.   I was once told you can only change things within your circle of power.    I tell my son he can change anything.  It just takes one voice.

    Some call the pessimist a realist.   They also call the optimist a dreamer.   We need both.   We also need to be both.

    I’m abstract this morning.   Thank you for a thought provoking blog!

    Michelle

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  2. Jelena Perfiljeva

    I’m a realist, so I’ll be planting tomatoes. If things turn for the worse at least we’ll have something to eat.

    P.S. There is another version of the “God story” where a person is caught in a flood and refuses to take a car, then a boat, then a helicopter claiming that God will save them. Naturally, they die and then God asks them “well, who did you think was sending you the car, the boat, and the helicopter?”

    The moral of the story is “search before you post”, as we say on SCN. 🙂

     

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    1. Matt Fraser
      Post author

      No doubt, tomatoes will turn out far more immediately useful after the apocalypse than flowers. On the other hand, without flowers, we won’t have bees. Without bees, we won’t have fruits like tomatoes. Or honey, for that matter. So, maybe we need both? 🙂

      The moral could also be, don’t assume that golden opportunities will look a certain way. Sometimes they’re “disguised” as ordinary events. Search before you post, and don’t disregard the help that people offer you. 🙂

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  3. Margaret Kreytak

    Thank you for the post, Matt.

    I too am optimistic about 2018.  In an abundance of optimism, I am now planting a pecan tree that will bear fruit in three to four years.

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    1. Matt Fraser
      Post author

      Now that’s the spirit! Just think, if everyone took the long view and planted just one tree, we’d solve so many problems. And who doesn’t love pecans?

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      1. Joachim Rees

        …we did plant a apple tree, but despite putting a good (well..) fence around it, our sheep got to it and ate some of it (it’s till alive, just will take some time until it grows apples again).

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  4. Paul Hardy

    If you want to depress yourself, read the New York Times article “the uninhabitable Earth”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Uninhabitable_Earth

    After reading that, you might want to throw yourself off the bridge.

    HOWEVER.

    I went to one of my best mates house over Xmas. he is usually a pessimist.

    This book was on the table:-

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progress:_Ten_Reasons_to_Look_Forward_to_the_Future

    This presents the view that although most people think the world is getting worse i.e. it was better thirty years ago, they are looking back at a golden age that never existed. When someone says go back to the golden age before the industrial revolution they think it was like a modern day trip to the country, all lovely plants and tweeting birds, with no poverty, starvation and disease.

    When someone says go back to the golden age that was 30 years ago, they cannot help but be a little bit biased by the fact they were 30 years younger at that point. Why do people say the songs were better when they were a teenager? Because they can only remember the good ones, they forgot all the rubbish, so it seems like every single song was wonderful back then.

    I would also recommend people look at Bill Gates annual updates on the work his foundation is doing to eliminate disease (and especially child mortality) in the modern world. Things like the international toilet contest sound odd to us first world people, but having access to proper sanitation in the vast bulk of the world is no joke – but it is getting better.

    Life is not a paradise – but it never was – but it is not as bad as the media paint it.

    The question is – can the (frankly amazing) technological developments of the modern age save the world before the polluting effect of the industrial revolution (which tend to occur 100 year after the event) destroy it?

    I say  the Futures So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades.

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    1. Matt Fraser
      Post author

      Thank you, Paul, for managing to depress and cheer me all at the same time! The David Wallace-Wells article was… well, long and thorough in its determined attempt to sink us into a miasma of despair, though it ended on an upbeat note: we’ll solve the problem, somehow, simply because we must. That is, if hydrogen sulfide farts don’t choke us all first.

      His reference to Fermi’s paradox is something I’ve given some thought to, as well. Indeed, I’m currently working on a story that involves going to a distant star to find the source of radio transmissions of technological origin. Problem is, the star is so far away that by the time the transmissions reach Earth, the civilization that produced them is long dead.

      I remember when I was a tween and fascinated with all things Medieval, I had a history teacher who pointed out that none of us would be particularly happy if we were able to travel back in time to live in a past age. Being too used to the comforts of modern sanitation was one of the reasons he gave.

      You mention the “international toilet contest.” I have done a small bit of traveling outside our “developed” world, and I’ve experienced the delights of village toilets that are nothing more than a rickety, ramshackle hut with a hole in the floor suspended off the edge of a cliff over a deep river valley. The village inhabitants got all their water from that river, of course, and they were careful to draw it upstream from their communal toilet… but there was another village just like theirs not far upstream from them, and another village not far downstream. Small wonder so many of them were living with near-constant diarrhea, and maybe worse. I recall taking showers where it was important to keep one’s eyes and mouth tightly shut, as the water could best be described as “lethal.” At least there were showers.

      Which illustrates Johan Norberg’s point (and yours). There was a time when pretty much everybody lived this way, and now a large part of the world no longer does. It’s certainly possible that, in the absence of a technological breakthrough, or in the grip of a fatal bout of contrariness, we may (mostly) revert back to a pre-fossil-fuel “global steady state,” but I don’t actually think things will turn out this way. For one thing, we’ve now turned the corner where, even without subsidies, it has become less expensive to build a new solar or wind power farm than to refurbish an existing coal power plant.

      For another, eventually the “general” AI that is surely already out there, but smart enough to hide itself from us, is going to take the decisions out of our hands. When the Singularity comes, all bets are off. 🙂

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    2. Jelena Perfiljeva

      It always puzzles me especially when women want to go back in time.Those stupid fantasies about being swiped away by a handsome prince or something. You fool! First of all, there were only that many princes (why does everyone think they’d travel back in time as a royalty all of a sudden?). Second, that prince could abuse you daily, treat you like a property, and there would be no police or women shelter to run away to. Third, with no sanitation I bet that prince would stink quite literally.

      The other day I was watching Victoria series on Amazon Prime where people were openly telling the queen of England that she is a silly girl who needs a husband to “control her”. Or Good Girls Revolt on the same Amazon? It was in our lifetime when it was OK to tell a woman she can’t be a reporter!

      So far for women every day is better than yesterday. There are no “good old days” for us! Think about it.

       

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  5. Joachim Rees

    I can throw something in, too:

    I did plant flowers in fall (together with my son), but our horses ate them, when they broke out lately (besides that, no damage done!) still I’m positiv, some will have survived – flowers a tough!

    Last year, I planted soy beans, that worked out well, too!

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    1. Matt Fraser
      Post author

      Horses, sheep, apples and soybeans! You must be quite the farmer, Joachim! Though I’m starting to wonder about the efficacy of your fence designs. 😉

      It is the nature of all living things, however, to try to “break out” of whatever confines them. “Nature always finds a way,” or something like that. Wasn’t that the quote from Jurassic Park, just before the velociraptors ate a few of the characters?

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    2. Jelena Perfiljeva

      When we bought our house 7 years ago we wondered why the previous owners planted only some decorative shrubs and flowers and not something more practical, like a fruit tree. So first thing we did was to plant 2 blueberry bushes. Fast forward to this day – we have not eaten a single berry from those plants! It’s not that they don’t produce. They do but as soon as the berries start turning very pale blue the squirrels and the birds descend on them like locust and they’re gone in a day.

      This year I gave up planting tulips – squirrels think it’s candy and treat our flower beds like an Easter Egg Hunt. 🙂 At least they don’t touch daffodils, so we just learn to work around the wildlife’s taste preferences. I’m an informed optimist now. 🙂

       

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      1. Michael Appleby

        Deer eat all the tulips I plant except those right next to the house (The deer don’t like to come that close to the house).  Daffodils, hyacinthes, crocus and allium are disdained by the critters.  Adapt and overcome!

        I still have the six blueberry plants from 14 years ago (maybe longer).  The plants keep growing, but birds got all the berries except for one year when I went to the effort of draping them with netting.  We got a few quarts of berries, but the branches tangled up the netting.  Maybe when I retire I will move them to where I can build a frame around the bushes for the netting.  Too close to the trees at the moment.

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  6. Florian Henninger

    We also planted a lot of flowers last year. Took me a while to turn some of my green into a flower walk for my wifey 🙂

     

    But yes, I am also very optimistic that this year will be a good year 😊

     

    And when I read above, I have to visit Joachim Rees

    , the farmer, together with my son. He loves 🐑 s

     

    ~Florian

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    1. Matt Fraser
      Post author

      Joachim Rees certainly seems to be quite the farmer! Horses, sheep, apple trees, soybeans, and flowers, and who knows, probably more.

      In my family, it’s my wife who is the gardener. We live in a condo in the heart of the city, so not much space for a garden, but we have a 400 sq ft plot in a nearby community garden, and she grows all sorts of vegetables there, from kale and winter squash, to tomatoes, green beans, snap peas, beets, and raspberries, and more. We don’t have flowers in the plot — everything is an edible — but there are other plots nearby where gardeners have chosen to plant flowers. In summer the whole area is like an oasis of green and vibrant color in the midst of a commercial and light industrial zone. My role is watering, and helping to harvest, and the annual turnover of the soil, plus any repairs or upgrades needed for the raised beds. I always find the garden a really peaceful spot to be.

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