Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Naysayers

It seems that since the very dawn of time (and I have no doubt until the dusk of time) there have been those people who can't see anything but the downside.

I've always wondered how those people motivate themselves to get up in the morning, given their negative outlook on the world.

But then I figured it out.

It occurred to me that some of us actually enjoy being the voice of doom. It gives those people a sort of purpose in life. Also, it's true that when things go well most of us are too happy to assign blame to the naysayers for not believing. And when the worst happens they get to tell us they knew it all along.

I have a feeling that the first human who invented skunk soup or tried to milk a chicken heard the caveman version of that sentence people just love to say: “I told you so.”

So what if some ideas aren't exactly genius quality?

As long as we keep trying to think of new things some of them are bound to turn out right. But we have to learn to ignore the negativity, or we won't even try.

Which brings me to my completely speculative account of History's Great Naysayers:

On fire:
“Are you kidding? That stuff killed my best pig! (I'll admit that it did smell oddly delicious though.)”

On the wheel:
“Mark my words. I just know that thing is gonna roll over somebody one day.”

On the written word:
“So let me get this straight. These marks you carve in stone are a way of talking to people who aren't here yet? I see. And will they be bringing the sun god for dinner, too?”

On indoor plumbing:
“I'm pretty sure that people are gonna want to keep that stuff as far away from where they bathe as possible, sport."

On the printing press:
“You have to put each letter in separately and backwards? I don't know, that seems like a lot of trouble, especially since hardly anyone can read.”

On electricity:
“It's like lightning. And you want it to come into my house. And it will give me light just like what I already have with my gas lamps. Hmmm. Sorry, maybe that idiot Edison next door would be interested.”

On the computer:
“Why in the world would anyone want a computer in his home? To calculate the weekly grocery bill in 1.6 seconds? Really. I'll just kick the kids out of their room and put a giant Univac in there.”

On the Internet:
“It's not a real place, right? And people type to one other? And tell us all about their day? And frustrated writers publish things they call blogs? And you have to pay to be there? Well, good luck. I'm sure it'll catch on like that New Coke or trout-flavored toothpaste.”

I will admit that it's tempting to be skeptical about new ideas. Many (maybe most) do turn out to be less than spectacular. (There was actually a man named Edsel Ford who could attest to that.) But just about every advance that humans have made was the result of one or just a few who believed there was a better way.

And even if most of use don't have great ideas that will change the world, isn't optimistic just a more pleasant way to live our lives?

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