The Wisdom of Pessimism – Free Ebook

This is going to be a very bad film. It will teach you nothing. You’ll wonder at the end where those few minutes of your life have gone. You’ll feel bitter, resentful, and increasingly furious. Now, that’s a tiny example of what pessimism can do for you. It prepares you for the worst, reduces the tension of expectations, protects you from disappointment, and might even make you laugh a bit. It should be a recipe for life. We live in an absurdly and painfully optimistic world. Mostly, that’s the result of all the businesses out there trying to sell us things. And, understandably, using cheerfulness to do it. And partly, it’s the influence of technology, which is always getting better, coloring our view of life as a whole, which often, isn’t improving. In the process, we’ve lost sight of the wisdom of seeing the glass half empty. For centuries, religions peddled dark messages. Buddhism told its followers that life was suffering. Christianity spoke of the fallen state of mankind and of the inevitability of earthly imperfection. It was helpful: it kept our expectations in check. The psychologist, William James, came up with an equation: Happiness equals expectations over reality. So, there are two ways to ensure contentment. Change reality, or, change expectations. Pessimists know to reduce the expectations. Good pessimists rehearse some key lessons to themselves every day: Life generally goes wrong. Everyone is worried and sad most of the time. It’s normal to have very big regrets around careers. The only people we can think of as “normal” are people we don’t yet know very well. It’s hard to be happy for more than fifteen minutes. Almost all your hopes are going to be dashed. Mediocrity is the norm. Today, however grim, will probably be one of those days you end up looking back on and wondering why you didn’t appreciate more fully. That’s how much worse it will eventually get. Don’t think of us pessimists as grim; the gap between what should be and what is can be filled with laughter, a generous laughter, but one of certainty that today will go wrong, tomorrow will probably be even worse, until the worst of all happens. But that’s okay.

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