So, which are you? I've been thinking of the fuss some New Yorkers have made over the newly installed bicycle-for-hire program called Bikeshare that allows people to take a bike from a docking station (there are hundreds now throughout the City) use for 45 minutes, then return to another of the docking stations. For free. More than 45 minutes, you start to pay. But in terms of easing traffic, enjoying fresh air, improving the environment, it's all good.
Yet there are complainers. They don't want the docking stations in their neighborhood (never mind that they are attractive, and that similar docking stations dot the great cities of Paris and London and Barcelona), or the bikes will be stolen (OK, not so easy but some will get stolen, yes, next question), and that they represent well, change, dammit! And we all know we resist change, whatever form it takes.
I'm told the New York Post wrote stories of what a disaster the Bikeshare program is. Yet I've read articles elsewhere about how terrific the program is. And I've talked wtih people ho have already tested the program and say it is wonderful, just what New York needed. In fact, wrote one biker who tried it out, strangers stopped him at nearly every corner and got onto conversation ("So you like it? Is it fun? How heavy is it? Is the traffic a problem?").
I thought about this clash of the cynics and optimists when I read Joel Lovell's piece in today's New York Times about Colum McCann's new book, TransAtlantic (comes out next week), His earlier book Let the Great World Spin, which he wrote to work through his anger and grief after the World Trade Center towers fell, is being used by high school teachers at Newtown High School, to help their teenage students work through their response to the tragedy just down the road at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
In this new work, among many things McCann deals with the difference between cynicism and optimism. In Transatlantic, he fictionalizes George Mitchell's efforts to broker the peace process between north and south in Ireland. Mitchell and McCann talked during the writing process, and Mitchell confirmed his view that "cynicism is easy. An optimist is a braver cynic." He goes on: "We're forced to change because we're forced to remember. And we're forced to remember when we're forced to confront."
I'm dealing with a group of friends on an issue that has grown contencious. Some want to remain in familiar, though increasingly unrewarding, territory; others want to forge ahead, optimistically, making an effort to shape the future of the group.
I can't help it. I bet with the optimists every time. It's just too easy to be a cynic and heck, as any good Midwesterner knows, stuff worth doing is generally hard. Bring it on.