“Is pessimism necessarily a sign of decline, decay, malformation, of tired and debilitated instincts—….. Is there a pessimism of strength?“Friedrich Nietzsche
It’s becoming overwhelmingly more difficult for me to have an optimistic view about life. It appears to me that the definition we have given optimism is nothing other than the willful effort we make at being self-delusional with life.
Why the sudden attack on such a beautiful concept? One might wonder. It is with no regret that I dare say optimism is indeed a great idea but not such a great reality.
We live in a world now where people have mastered the art of being immune to facts. We would rather build ourselves fantasies of a world where outcomes are always desirable than accept the harsh fact that life is negative sometimes.
“Be optimistic! For the peace of your mind.” We often get told. “Pessimism will make you miserable!” We get told more. Well, we cannot deny that this makes sense. At least from the shallow outlook of things.
Surely we have seen the very most hopeful of us have their hopes, dreams and expectations crushed by life as if to mean life was spiteful of him or her. What do we call this then? Optimism? What about all those times we get told to be optimistic about life? Well, we have been optimistic, yet life does not pan out the way we hoped it would. Don’t expectations hurt?
There are those of us who go about life with this idea that things will or ought to go the way we envision them to be. While it may be good to have a positive outlook towards life, life itself is not meant to be that way. Setbacks and suffering are inevitable. Getting detached from reality in the name of optimism has proven more deadly than pessimism ever has. That. That right there is what I mean by optimism of weakness. In simple terms, I mean to say “naive.”
Consequently, it begs the question therefore, “What is the way to go?” Should we continue to get frustrated and disappointed because our expectations do not sometimes go in line with the reality at hand? It appears to me that we are left with no option but to have an outlook on life that leans towards the pessimistic side rather than build castles in the air with our optimistic outlook.
What if I told you then that pessimism is not all that bad as we depict it to be? At least a certain type of pessimism. Have we thought of this though? That we have to imagine the worst of someone before we can trust them? Because that is what trust is all about- acknowledging that those persons in your life could hurt you but giving them that power anyway.
Now let us apply this same concept to some aspects of life. Let us take the example of a lawyer who is tasked with drafting a contract in a very expensive deal. Should the lawyer assume that the other side will not take advantage of any loopholes that might exist in the contract that he or she will draft?
The lawyer has to be pessimistic in such a scenario in order to save his or her client from any potential losses that might arise from the contract. In that case, he or she has to draft a contract that has almost zero possibilities of being exploited.
To use a more simple example, and in form of a question: why do we lock our doors when we leave our homes? The engineers of planes and choppers have to assume that the vehicles could fall off the sky and so they would consider all possibilities they can to avoid such a scenario.
Freidrich Nietzsche talked of something I found quite interesting. He spoke of the “Pessimism of Strength,” and “Pessimism of Weakness”. Pessimism of Strength is that which I have talked about already- having a realistic view of life and grounded in that reality instead of deluding ourselves that life is all sunshine and rainbows. As Nietzsche put it:
“The trust in life is gone:”, Nietzsche wrote, “life itself has become a problem. Yet one should not jump to the conclusion that this necessarily makes one gloomy. Even love of life is still possible, only one loves differently”Friedrich Nietzsche
Pessimism of Weakness is that trap that most of us fall into in our attempt to have a realistic view of life. That kind of pessimism that makes optimistic people in life keep saying “Pessimism will make you miserable!” It is the kind of pessimism that brings about sorrow and hopelessness. The one that has us believing that life is pointless because we have no control over the outcomes we work for and desire. The kind of pessimism that has us “resign to our fate and justify our inaction in life.”
So ask yourself, what kind of person are you? Are you a pessimist? If so, are you a pessimist of strength or weakness?