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Devra Torres

Overcoming Practical Pessimism

Aug. 29, 2012, at 7:57am

“Remember!  Inside every silver lining is a dark cloud of despair!”

(Many thanks to Richard West for this photo.  For more of his very striking and varied artistry, please see more of his work here.)

I knew a wonderful grandmother whose take on life could be captured in those words.  I couldn’t figure it out—until I became a mother.  Part of being responsible for someone you love is being on continual alert for anything that could possibly go wrong. The world is suddenly full of death traps.  A grape on the floor—choking hazard!   A hitherto harmless pet—smothering hazard!

And later: your daughter’s boyfriend—lifelong-misery hazard!

But it’s not only panicky mothers who tend to look on

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Michael Healy

Misery and Pessimism

May. 13, 2012, at 6:58pm

Pessimism is an attempt at an “honest” solution to the problem of the miseries of life.  It tries to face squarely the reality of evil, pain, death, change, catastrophe, etc., and then offers a way to shield oneself from these inevitable facts of life by steeling oneself against them, not letting oneself be touched by them, by showing an enduring toughness and self-sufficiency in accepting them.  It espouses only a negative definition of happiness, relief from misery, without any positive components.  The problem with all this “realism” and “honesty” is the underlying assumption that evil, pain, and misery ultimately win out in life and in being.  But is this true?  Is it honest?  Is it

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