Pessimism = Optimism and the Joy of Purim
The results are in, our attitudes and perspectives on life impact our emotional and physical well-being.
In one study, doctors evaluated 309 middle-aged patients who were scheduled to undergo coronary artery bypass surgery. In addition to a complete pre-operative physical exam, each patient underwent a psychological evaluation designed to measure optimism, depression, neuroticism, and self-esteem. The researchers tracked all the patients for six months after surgery. When they analyzed the data, they found that optimists were only half as likely as pessimists to require re-hospitalization. (Harvard medical)
This is all well and good, but what should the pessimist do? How can they build and maintain an optimistic view, when it goes against their very nature?
The good news is that Hashem granted us the gift of Purim, when we loudly proclaim that the bleakest of situations is itself the source of the greatest hope. Purim is all about opposites, so we must first study depression, its meaning and purpose, and only then can we come to better understand optimism.
Feelings of depression and despair arise when a person feels trapped. Perhaps its not even that things are bad per se, but that there’s just no sense of being truly alive.
Sadly, they may have come to define their essence by their circumstances.
When things are going great, confusing the self with the circumstances can be a source of (external) happiness. But when the going gets rough, or even just boring, the building begins to collapse.
It is precisely the meaninglessness of superficial living that teaches us that there’s more to the self than meets the eye. It is despair itself that screams, “buddy you’re looking at life completely wrong.”
NO, the human being is not a sum total of experiences and accomplishments. There’s a you that experiences life, and that you is inherently holy and wonderful. This is a wake-up call to reconnect with the inner essence of life — the soul.
The wicked Haman, representing evil itself, shows us that evil is nothingness with a purpose. Haman’s says, “and all this is worthless to me, so long as I see Mordechai the Jew sitting in the king’s gate.” All his wealth, status and power were worthless because of one Jew — a Jew who had only eleven months to live. Never has there been such a powerful testament to the true meaning of life.
Purim is a day when we put our intellect aside, and tap into the genuine happiness of just being the beautiful soul that we are — a part of G-d on High.