Monday, September 28, 2009

Adventures of an Incurable Optimist

Have you seen the hour-long documentary "Michael J. Fox: Adventures of an Incurable Optimist"? Michael J. Fox travels around the States and the world in search of fellow optimists, to tell a story of hope.

After talking with Ben Harper about music as the soundtrack for optimism, Fox wonders, "are all artists generally more optimistic? You have to be an optimist to pursue a career in which 90% of those trained in the field don't make a decent living wage."

While IM'ing with a friend and a filmmaker in Kosovo yesterday, I was reminded of Fox's quote. Lulzim is one of the most optimistic people I know, and works towards spreading it through his art and his work with the community. He told me that it has been a great year, despite the protests and clashes after Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008. There have been film festivals (including the Prishtina International Film Festival), an outdoor film screening series in Mitrovica by the bridge that divides the city into Albanian and Serbian sides, and a concert he had just attended for the Mitrovica Rock School (founded by Musicians without Borders in concert with CBM - Community Building Mitrovica).

I'd love to continue Michael J. Fox's travels in search of optimism and go back to the Balkans. The people there are under constant economic stress and the pressure of years of nationalistic rhetoric, yet have very real hope for a better future.

Michael J. Fox travels to Bhutan, where happiness is part of their constitution, and not just the pursuit of it. What is gross national happiness? The Prime Minister of Bhutan describes it as "something that can be promoted and that can be sustained when one has or enjoys good relationship." Watch a teaser for the show, but I hope it airs again, I highly recommend it. His optimism, and the attitude of those he interviews, is contagious.

Though I first fell in love with Alex P. Keaton when I was 7 and "Family Ties" was a staple of my TV diet, I have a much more serious crush on the man behind the camera, especially after watching this documentary. Mostly I hope can be more like him.

"Since I'm not sure of the address to which to send my gratitude, I put it out there in everything I do," Fox says. "It's my ongoing journey, and what I've discovered is optimists are open to alternatives in the face of adversity, and deal with reality head on. That hope flourishes in groups and resonates when people are doing what they love. And that happiness is contagious, you can give it out like newspapers and feel it in everything you do."

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