Radical ideals and fluffy bunnies


(Disclaimer: this post has been referred to in an excellent presentation about complexity thinking. The presentation reacts to the un-scientific nature of fluffy bunnies. Here, on the other hand, I borrowed Dave Snowden’s expression to refer to the optimistic nature of some fluffy bunnies, not to the process followed by fluffy bunnies to source knowledge - I value optimism, not the lack of professionalism or unscientific methods of working of fluffy bunnies as the presentation might lead to believe).

A rant-like reflection about attitude to life, this week: I have been sometimes criticised for being overly optimistic, for dreaming away, to the extent I would seem unrealistic. Perhaps I am among what Dave Snowden sometimes colourfully calls “fluffy bunnies”.

Instead, I should – like any decent person – be realistically pessimistic about what’s happening.

Which half are you looking at? And why? (Photo credits: _Fidelio_ on FlickR)

Which half are you looking at? And why? (Photo credits: _Fidelio_ on FlickR)

Well I don’t think so!

And here’s why:

  • Optimism doesn’t mean unrealism – there are facts and there is what you make with them – it is the proverbial half-full half-empty glass perspective. I like to think mine is half full, still I know it’s at half;
  • Visioning (a practical extension of dreaming) is essential to go and grow further – without that we might follow a short-term, narrow-minded, mechanistic path leading to more efficient mediocrity;
  • Attachment to dreams is probably better than to plans: dreams drive us, plans constrain us if we stick to them at whatever cost (and one of these crucial costs is to miss the bigger picture);
  • Optimism gives me energy and that gives energy to others. Eventually it makes us all work better – and this is based on feedback I have been getting from colleagues and work partners around the world when I announced I was moving on from IRC to ILRI.
  • In the age of interconnection, social learning and complex interactions, I believe having ideals and being optimistic about realising them is the radical challenging stance rather than the established norm – and since this complex world commands us to challenge our norms, here is my happy contribution to it!
  • And at the end of it all, even if all the above were wrong, I still prefer to be wrongly optimistic than to be rightly pessimistic; at least it makes me happier.

So all in all, perhaps I’m a fluffy bunny but then I’m a happy and – so it seems – rather effective fluffy bunny at that.

And that inspired this haiku:

Useless sun I love

Distant silly dreams I chase

- you are sadly blind

And I’d be happy to help!

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3 thoughts on “Radical ideals and fluffy bunnies

  1. Dear Trevor,

    Thank you for your interesting comment and metaphor. How do you describe yourself on the optimism-pessimism spectrum, if at all?
    And if optimism is too often reduced to fluffy bunnies, what do you suggest to bring hope, purpose and vision in the discourse of people and make optimism a realistic option?
    I am really interested in your views as this is the story of my life to some extent, at least a recurring theme of it.

    Thanks for the exchange!

    Ewen

  2. Very late comment, but I just came across your blog. I don’t buy into the half-full half-empty paradigm anymore. To me the glass is always full: It is just a question of the relative ratios of air and water. To extend the metaphor further, we die in a matter of minutes without air, and can live for a week or so without water.

    In other words, I buy into you idea of ‘realistic optimism’, but the problem is that all too often optimism is ‘fluffy bunnies’, which doesn’t help anyone.

  3. Pingback: Attitude leading to change… or changing attitude? | Learning for Change

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