Optimism and pessimism are appraisals/evaluations/predictions of the future, based not only, or no so much, on current knowledge/data, but on our interpretation of the same. The interpretation is influenced by a number of factors, ranging from past experiences and upbringing to natural disposition and efforts to be objective. Perhaps at a subconscious level it is influenced by our deepest hopes and fears of which, obviously, we are not aware.
Optimism need not dull us into complacency, nor need pessimism numb us into resignation.
Whether we are optimists or pessimists about ourselves or the world, we can always work to better the current status. That is what really matters, irrespective of how we see the as yet unraveled future.
I am optimistic that our current pessimism about the world will goad us to actions that have the potential to ameliorate the human condition, in however small a measure. I am also optimistic because – as someone said – the pessimist may be right in the long run, but it is the optimist who has fun all along the way.
Whether it is to paradise or to the other place, we can always try to make the mental journey to it cheerful, and that is the great merit of optimism. Convinced that we are on the road to the precipice, we may be spurred to change course, and that is what pessimism can, in principle, do.
November 24, 2011