An optimist is someone who trusts in a positive result. Sometimes based on readily available facts, but much more often blindly. Because blindly also has its own set of facts, usually based on that combination of probability and an assessment of worst case scenarios. Everyone trusts blindly, day in and day out. You bite into something from a plastic bag and trust that it's really a slice of bread. You fill your glass from a half-gallon container that a total stranger has placed in the refrigerated section of a supermarket, and believe without question what it says: milk. You put the pharmacist's pills in your mouth, you drive through a green light trusting it to be red on the side street, you let your child walk to the schoolbus stop and drive yourself to work unconcerned, and you assume that because the hotel room towels smell clean they are in fact clean. You go to sleep expecting to wake up the next morning.
That’s optimism based on an intuitive probability calculation. For while some people do go postal and it’s therefore conceivable that sometime, somewhere, some ticked-offbakery employee has lefta razor blade inside a loaf of bread, or that there’s a tiny chance a shipment of milk might somehow contain dissolved strychnine, and that occasionally a motorist is texting while driving and therefore fails to see their red traffic light, much more often things do go right. Very much more often. In 2020, 327 million Americans ate bread every day, sixty loaves that year per capita, a total of nearly twenty billion loaves sold. No one reported finding anything sharp. It did happen in pizza dough, though - a few miles from where I live in Maine, a laid-off employee hid razor blades in ready made dough that year. He got caught.
People are constantly doing calculations in their heads. Almost all planes land safely. Almost every mile you travel during your lifetime is obstacle-free. Most houses don't burn down. The man or woman in uniform on the street is really a police officer and not a terrorist. Lightning strikes somewhere else, not you. The number of infant deaths is not expressed in percentages, but in one promille. And you have of course every reason to expect that you, like some eight billion others, will wake up tomorrow morning: your odds of not waking up are an average 1 in 170,000. That is equivalent to one unlucky person in four packed arenas, and the younger you are, the more your odds improve. Armed with that knowledge, sometimes no more than a legitimate but vague suspicion, a person assesses their own chances that things will turn out okay today based on a well-founded optimism.
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