Willem Meiners’ book “Half Full in Maine: The History and Bright Future of 10,000 years of Optimism Down East and Everywhere Else” is a detailed look into Maine’s optimistic vision, which has shaped the state’s progression and continues to influence its future.
Born in Amsterdam, Meiners worked for 20 years as a newsroom reporter. When he moved to Maine in 1991, he worked as a bookseller and a radio station owner and also took up other hobbies such as helicopter aviation. He wrote this book as a companion piece to his original optimism book “Half Full” in order to expand upon the idea of modern optimism as well as local politics in his new home state of Maine.
The constant state of change in the age of information has left many people reacting with bouts of pessimism toward an uncertain future. This pessimism exists on a personal level, especially in older individuals.
Being a veteran in the ever-changing landscape of the news industry, Meiners instead opts for a more optimistic outlook on what the future brings. Life in today’s age is safer, healthier and more entertaining for the average person than it ever was before. Meiners comments on how people with pessimistic outlooks tend to unconsciously gear themselves towards optimism as they adapt to the change around them.
“Each of us, the pessimists too, makes a whole range of optimistic decisions every single day, without realizing that we do, from blindly trusting what’s in the milk carton to driving to work expecting to arrive safely to swallowing a pharmacists’ pill that the doctor’s assistant has prescribed,” Meiners said.
“Half Full in Maine” also details the ancient history of optimism’s roots that started from the dawn of human civilization. Ever since humans discovered that eating cooked food can help develop the brain, humans have drawn themselves to the most optimistic outcome possible. The result of this is the ability to think and plan far better than other living animals and make world-changing accomplishments over several millennia.
This drive for optimism is an innate part of humanity that can be seen even today. Meiners has met many noteworthy individuals throughout his life, having crossed paths with former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela as well as the Spanish Marquess Manuel Gutiérrez Mellado and Greek actress Melina Mecouri. These three individuals all share a strong sense of optimism despite the adversity and hardship they went through in achieving their goals.
The same level of optimism can even be applied to complete strangers. Meiners is currently writing a novel about his helicopter trek from Alaska to Antarctica, in which he got stuck in Esquel, Argentina at one point. It was there he met a hotel receptionist named Bella who offered to help with heating up the engine on the helicopter.
“One morning Bella decided to call her mom and asked her to bring her hair dryer. She told me to stick it in the exhaust pipe and heat up the engine from behind,” Meiners said. “The trick didn’t work, but I have never forgotten that lovely attempt to help a stranger.”
Meiner’s conclusion was that optimism can result from the actions of just one person.
“One man, one woman can make all the difference between hope and despair even when all seems to tilt the wrong way. That should leave all of us fundamentally optimistic,” Meiners said.
In 2023, more individuals are getting married than ever before. There is also a higher demand for fertility services, as well as being better educated than previous generations in spite of the bombardment of false information. Protests for police reform and advocating for better environmental conditions are proof that the younger generation cares about the state of tomorrow, and Meiners believes this path for an optimistic future is more visible than ever.