Updated: Jan 7, 2021
But may I ask, at heart, are you an optimist or a pessimist?
Those seem to be the only two fashionable religions left to us nowadays.
An Ideal Husband, Oscar Wilde
No-one really likes to be called either a pessimist or an optimist in a discussion. It's a worse kickback than let's agree to disagree. At least this means I am totally fed up with debating this now. Let's give it up before we fight. It's not pleasant, especially if you like discussion as much as I do, but it comes from a good (if exasperated) place.
On the other hand Well yeah, but you're an opti- / pessi- mist, aren't you? means almost the same, but with an added edge of but let it be known that we are disagreeing because you filter your ideas through spectacles of a colour different from mine
It's not even close to I respect your views as being different from mine is is an out and out dismissal of them - There is no point in continuing this because you are emotionally incapable of seeing MY worldview.
I'm not angry. I'm disappointed.
The trick, I guess, is not to get offended.
But words are important. Compartmentalising people is bad. If I let you put me in a box marked pessimist now, then next time you read something I write, or when we debate climate collapse or veganism or the evils of the UK tory party, you're going to find it easier to ignore my points, and cling harder on to your own biases because all I can do is confirm them for you. Because I'm a pessimist. And, by extension, you're an optimist. Which is, from your point of view, preferable.
Well bollocks to that. It's not better to be an optimist. In almost every way I can think of, it is the worst of all approaches to life.
But. That does not mean I am a pessimist. Nor that I think it is good to be one.
I believe the universe is exactly as it intends to be.
Like a wizard turning up precisely when he means to.
The perfection of the universe is not contingent on either our understanding of it, or acceptance of the fact that it is perfect.
For some people, this position represents doe-eyed innocence; unscientific nonsense or irrational, irresponsible nonchalance. All which are basically an unwanted excess of optimism.
For others, saying the universe is "as it is", is an establishing proof of an abrogation of responsibility; it is defeatist, depressing and an expression of the worst thought-crime of all - to be anti-humanist.
All of these miss the point in exactly the same way.
Let's imagine a scale of all possible values of optimism to pessimism, with Dr Pangloss at one extreme and Eeyore at the other.
To believe that another person's impression of the universe is either depressing or enlightening, illuminating or obfuscating, is nothing but an expression of the vector of difference between you or me.
It can't mean that I am optimistic, only more optimistic than you. You lie more to one end of the optimism scale than I do, and my position on the scale has no value, other than it's relationship to yours. I am either more optimistic than you, or I am a pessimnist.
Similarly, it is equally impossible for a pessimist to see another person as "less pessimistic". From where they are moping, you are an optimist.
But this doesn't even hold true for all people. It does not hold true for me. By which I mean, you cannot be right or wrong by calling me an optimist or a pessimist. Pick either. It isn't wrong. It's definitely not right either.
You are comparing your value-assessement against my deliberate and mindful non-assessement.
Let me say it again.
I believe the universe is exactly as it is meant to be.
No value. No expectation. It just is.
You can't contrast you position on the scale of "optimist to pessimist" against my not being on the scale.
Ask a computer programmer. Compare any value to "null" and the answer is "false".
A denial of the validity of the comparison.
Or, as the great western Zen master Winnie The Pooh puts it:
A fish can't whistle and neither can I.
Ask me a riddle and I reply
Cottleston Cottleston Cottleston Pie.