Sadly – but to pessimists, predictably – pessimism gets a bad press. This is because it is routinely assumed to be the same as, or an inevitable aspect of, depression. As the happiest and most well-adjusted person I know is a devout pessimist, I find this idea ridiculous. My friend delights in life precisely because he expects nothing of it. If he happens upon something good or beautiful, then it is a bonus, a miracle. His days are full of discoveries and consolations. His sense of humour is Cowardian and Lennonish, a knowing nod of recognition to bad news and false hopes. One of his favourite expressions is the typically vintage “Mustn’t grumble”. He is, I need hardly add, a joy to be with.
Gert thoroughly enjoyed Brian Appleyard’s article The Happiness Conspiracy: Against Optimism and the Cult of Positive Thinking, that points to the “bracing and often funny” nature of pessimism and the deleterious effects of what he calls the cult of neo-optimism in medicine, politics, economics, sociology and in the way we judge ourselves and our lives.