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Rob Auton: Keep calm and count your blessings

Thinking I’ll be able to stay optimistic is optimism in itself but in times of such uncertainty,
as long as there’s enough humans who are not cleaning their teeth in public or eating cooked meals on the underground,
I think we will be able to pull it back around.

This article generously shared by Rob Auton, writer and performer

How do we stay optimistic in times of such uncertainty? I think the best place to start is asking what I am certain of and why I should be optimistic about that.

I am certain that my small talk fills people with the same feeling they get from a bad high five and that I always want to ask them to do it again to try to make a better connection. I am certain that recently when I was making a cup of tea I thought “OK Rob, this milk is from a cow” but recently I realised that the milk is from many different cows and it’s all been mixed up. Lots of different cows’ milk in my mouth at the same time. I’m all right with it if you are. I’m not. I’m certain that where there’s a will there’s a dead person.

I am also certain that I am writing this because soon I am coming to Australia for the first time. I am looking forward to seeing the water go down the plughole the other way, but does the spinning beach ball of death spin the other way around compared to England? I am uncertain as to what my experience will be like but I’m optimistic as I’ve worked hard for a while now and I will try my best to put on good shows. I have cultivated optimism towards the uncertainty of my trip because I love what I do.

I am certain that if you are reading this you are probably equipped with a heart in your body. Not only that but your heart is pumping red blood that belongs to you around your insides. Absolute result. You have insides because your skin is keeping them all inside you. You are being kept together by your own body. That is certainly a massive positive.

You are probably reading this with eyes that are not falling out of your face. You are doing all this without too much effort. Your body is doing it for you. We are lucky that we don’t have to put effort into making our heart beat. It just does it for us. That fills me with optimism.

These words I am putting together are going into your brain and it’s probably at about now that your brain begins to wonder whether to keep reading. How long is this piece going to be? You’ve probably seen the length of the article. I haven’t. I am writing it on a train in southern England. I know where the train is going but I don’t know where this article is going. I do know that it is going from my pen on to the page of my notebook and that it will then be typed into a computer and sent to the other side of the world and printed in a newspaper.

There is uncertainty to this writing but I am doing it fuelled by optimism. I’m certain that I’m going to go back and change bits but that’s what is exciting for me. Joe Strummer, the lead singer from the Clash, said “The future is unwritten” and it is. I am writing the future of this article right now. Putting my pen to paper helps me stay optimistic. To have control over something. I guess that’s where the uncertainty comes in as we don’t have control of other people and to want to control all the other people on the planet is dangerous.

A video went around the internet recently of a man in England brushing his teeth on the tube platform before work and spitting on the tracks. There was such a specific sense that the line had been crossed. Nobody wants to live in a society where everyone is cleaning their teeth and spitting on each other’s shoes. People can take only so much. I am certain of that and that is a reason for optimism. The vast majority of us know where the line is. It wasn’t a massive thing but for some reason it really made me think that if everyone thought that was acceptable behaviour, the end would probably be quite nigh, to be honest.

There was also a guy eating a full English breakfast on the tube with a knife and fork. That’s out of control and does not fill me with optimism. I have started to try to look at all the car windows in the street that aren’t getting smashed. There’s absolutely loads. Walking around a bottle shop, it would be very easy for people to be smashing all the bottles on the floor.

Most of my optimism and pessimism comes from seeing and hearing other people. It is probably quite dangerous to look to the people around us to inspire optimism, but I find it all over. The random things that people say to me might not save the world but they certainly inspire me to want to keep going and make the world a better place.

I once went into a supermarket for a specific item, so I didn’t pick up a basket, and by the time I got to the checkout my arms were overloaded with special offers, prompting the lady on the checkout to say “You just came in for one thing didn’t you? And you’ve ended up with all that?”. And I hadn’t spoken to anyone all day, so I said, “Yes, I did actually. Do you want to guess which one I came in for?”. And she started guessing and there was a big queue. “Was it that yoghurt?”. “No. Nobody goes into a supermarket to buy a single yoghurt, madam.” Finally, she said, “Oh, tomato and basil soup,” and we both smiled.

Another time when I was in the supermarket I heard two men debating over what meat to buy for a roast and one said to the other: “No. She won’t eat pork because it’s got religion in it.”

Thinking I’ll be able to stay optimistic is optimism in itself but in times of such uncertainty, as long as there’s enough humans who are not cleaning their teeth in public or eating cooked meals on the underground, I think we will be able to pull it back around. There’s a definite line and I think we are going to reach it soon. The tipping point will come and all the silent people who aren’t smashing car windows will rise up and order will be restored.


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