Pessimism is Easy . . .

. . . . except, in the long run, it's not, actually.

(*WARNING!!!! Please don appropriate "Receiving A Portly-Dyke Lecture" garb now! I am consciously not going to be using my usual "in my opinion/experience", or "I think that . . . " language during this post.*)

Pessimism is easy -- in terms of Group-Support.

You're actually quite likely to find a lot of people who will happily join you in bitching, moaning, complaining, snarking, and whinging, and who will enthusiastically support you to bitch, moan, complain, snark, and whinge.

You may also gain some bonus "cool-and-arty" points by being incredibly, over-the-top pessimistic (but you're going to have to work very hard at this, as generalized Pessimism seems to have become the Order of the Day).

Pessimism is easy in the "making an effort" department, too -- because if "Life sucks, then you die" and "The world is going to shit and that's just how it is" -- then you are relieved of any responsibility to change anything -- including yourself-- because after all -- What's the use?

Pessimism is easy . . . . until . . . .

Until you have children, or an incredible idea for your new business, or you fall in love . . . . or you realize that maybe, just maybe, you might actually want to go on living, after all -- for whatever reason.

I'm not a Pollyanna by any stretch of the imagination.

I've seen my share of shit in half a Century.

However, I'm really, truly, and completely sick of hearing people conflate "pessimism" with "realism" as follows:
"I'm just being realistic! Human beings are fucked up!!"

Bullshit. I call bullshit to this.

Yeah, I've experienced my share of asshole-ish behavior from human beings, but if I'm really, truly, scientific and logical about my personal statistics, I've had my ass pulled out of the flames by other humans way more often than I've had my ass plunged into the flames by them.

That's just a statistical fact of my life -- and to say anything different is . . . . is . . . . just unrealistic.

I'd be all about Teh Pessimism . . . . if it had ever accomplished anything -- if it had actually saved me from heartbreak (which it didn't), or prepared me for a crisis (which it didn't), or changed the world (which it hasn't).

Face the facts.

Be realistic.

If you really, truly believed that your economy/relationship/town/country/species/world/universe
was simply going down the tubes and there was nothing you could do to stop it, you actually wouldn't get out of bed tomorrow -- you wouldn't take your anti-depressants -- you wouldn't be considering looking for a lover/partner, or thinking about having children, or looking for a job, or ruminating about whether to change jobs, or wondering about what you might eat for dinner later tonight or for breakfast tomorrow, or pondering what to post on your blog, or whether you should start a blog . . .

. . . and if you really, truly believed: "Life sucks, then you die" -- you sure as hell wouldn't be reading this fucking blog!

See, I don't think that pessimism is really all that easy -- I think it actually takes a lot of energy to squelch that amazingly persistent: "But . . . but . . . I want to Live!" impulse that seems to spring eternal in the human breast.

I do think that Pessimism is lazy (lots of peer-support, no personal action required).

And dishonest. ("I'm going to bitch and moan as if this stuff matters to me while simultaneously acting as if it doesn't matter to me because it's pointless and we're all going to hell in a handcart.")

And ultimately -- Pessimism is ineffective. (Point me to a single thriving and sustainable culture that was firmly and consciously based in Pessimism, and I promise that I won't get out of bed ever again.)

I'm not advocating for some kind of Shiny-Happy-People-Holding-Hands form of Optimism here. I'm not going all Dr. Pangloss on your ass.

In fact, I'd like to throw the whole Pessimism/Optimism dichotomy right out the fucking window.

It has become so mired with the notion of some perverse warfare between black-clad nihilists smoking cigarettes under street lamps and appliqu├ęd-jumper-clad moms sharing recipes at the park that it is now virtually inoperative as a structure for meaningful philosophical discussion. (And for that, Leibniz and Schopenhauer can be karmically consigned to meet each other again and again and again and again and again on the eternal-blind-date-from-hell, as far as I'm concerned.)

Instead, I want to look at what really works to do what it claims it wants to do.

I don't care if you call "expecting the worst": Pessimism, or a host of other names.

I don't care if you call "expecting the best": Optimism, or a host of other names.

I'm advocating expecting NOTHING, and instead, examining what we have-- what we actually ARE experiencing -- right now.

Sometimes we will realize that some of what we "have" sucks ass (an economic basis that relies on the abuse of workers and the destruction of the environment, high gas prices, mortgage crisis, tepid relationship, faithless friends etc.) -- but sometimes -- and perhaps many times, or even better -- most times -- we will realize that much of what we "have" not only does not suck ass, but is astounding and amazing (incredible choices about food, housing, clothing, friends, lovers -- computers that do incredible service for us and potentially, for the whole species -- actual possessions and relationships that enhance and expand us, etc., etc., etc.) .

This is not "Optimism" -- it's Realism.

Let's get Real.

Posted byPortlyDyke at 2:30 AM  


NameChanged said... March 20, 2008 at 5:42 AM  

My pessimistic tendencies have been manifesting as nightmares lately, so I find it increasingly distressful to be pessimistic.

When I awake from one of these nightmares, I begin to count all of the ways that I am helping my daughter become a healthy happy human. Most of the time it works.

witchtrivets said... March 20, 2008 at 12:48 PM  

Good points. But as a pessimist, I have to comment that being moderately depressed means thinking everything sucks completely while also knowing at the same time intellectually that things may just be perceived as sucking 100% when the true percentage is closer to 75%. But that doesn't help with the automatic pessimistic reaction. At least not for me.

Extra points for referencing Voltaire.

Christina said... March 20, 2008 at 2:33 PM  

Woman. You need to quit talking about me like this.

Jennifer said... March 20, 2008 at 8:17 PM  

Speaking as an optimist, I would like to say that my experiences with you and others (many of whom are mentioned in your blogroll ... funny, that) simply confirms what I've always believed.

People are truly good and the world is (you know, underneath all the crap) an amazing place.

Brandy said... March 21, 2008 at 1:14 PM  

There is a thing called Sturgeon's Law, which is the belief that 90% of everything is crap, and the other ten percent is good. It's right up there next to Murphy's Law and the laws of gravity, etc.

I think that makes a lot of sense, and a truly happy person will find their 10% and stick with it; interests, hobbies, or chores. And think long and hard about "do-I-want-to-do-this", because you're absolutely right when you say in your older post that people should only do things that make them happy (in a practical sense, of course, so no skipping out on responsibilities, but yes to skipping out on stressing over stupid stuff, or giving into vices).

Optimism = teh yayness.

Anonymous said... March 24, 2008 at 8:34 PM  

You need to distinguish between "kvetching to work off steam", an activity common to both pessimists and optimists, and "whining". Kvetching can be an art form, a way of laughing at your problem, a way of saying outrageous things in an informal (or even totally private) manner so you don't rip the boss a new one and get fired....

Of COURSE human beings are fucked up - and wonderful - frequently at the same time. Life would be boring otherwise.

It is possible to be pessimistic and still work to make things better. Lord knows, all my experience being a chronic depressive, and doing my civic duty as a (very) part-time activist, ahs proven that. It's more fun to be optimistic, though.


darkdanny said... March 25, 2008 at 10:50 PM  

The constant swinging between optimism and pessimism can certainly lead to those anti-depressants you mentioned (I'm learning that the hard way now). It's just so draining to get your hopes up to have them suddenly dashed or to have your hopes down and have them suddenly lifted.

These days I just try to be mellow all the way around. If something goes my way fine if it doesn't fine.

Brave Sir Robin said... March 31, 2008 at 11:49 AM  

Ok Portly, 'fess up.

How do you get in my mind and deliver these "She's talking to me and no one else posts"?

It's eerie.

You missed your calling, You would have made a great preacher.

If there was, you know, a God and all.

Bob said... April 1, 2008 at 6:43 PM  

Hey, PD, have you been to my place lately?


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