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The wider the grin, the sharper the blade


A Year of Mindfulness: 52 Weeks of Focus – Week 27

Optimism. Mindfulness is all about the present moment, yet we often live our lives in the past and future. Since we cannot change the past nor predict the future, remaining hopeful seems the best course of action each time we are taken out of the present moment. For this reason, I spend time observing my thoughts. My outlook and attitude depends upon it. When we think negatively about things, more negativity occurs. When we think positively however, more positivity follows. Like increases like. This week’s theme is optimism. Optimism is all about our thoughts – having a bright outlook.

I’m all for being mindful—definitely something I’m constantly working towards. But don’t even get me started on optimism. A natural skeptic, I’m not convinced that it’s healthy or helpful to constantly try to think “positively.” In fact, it can be detrimental at times (think: cancer patients feeling guilty that they’ve made themselves sick or are not getting better because they have not been “ positive” enough).

Have you ever met a person who smiles all the time? Who you can describe as constantly cheerful? Don’t trust them. Don’t trust them to be honest with themselves—or with you. They’ll be the first one to have a mental breakdown—or to stab you in the back. Someone I was once close to used to say, “The wider the grin, the sharper the blade,” and for the most part, I’ve found that to be true. I did not realize at the time that he was essentially quoting one of the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition: “The bigger the smile, the sharper the knife,” but it makes sense because he was a big Star Trek fan. (For the record, I’m an appreciator of Star Trek, but not sure I’d consider myself a fan, namely because I do not watch the movies and episodes over and over again, memorizing the dialog. Also, I’m sure the origin of the idiom goes further back than Star Trek.)

This does not mean that we all need to be full of gloom and doom, nor does it give us an excuse to be assholes to each other. Nor does it mean that I don’t appreciate that rare individual who has faith in humanity but has not lost their critical thinking skills or sense of humor. It does not even mean that I’m not sometimes hopeful. If I didn’t have a glimmer of hope to latch on to at times, I wouldn’t be here.