"Are you really that pessimistic?"

a response to a friend

People grieve and bemoan themselves, but it is not half so bad with them as they say. There are moods in which we court suffering, in the hope that here, at least, we shall find reality, sharp peaks and edges of truth. But it turns out to be scene-painting and counterfeit. The only thing grief has taught me, is to know how shallow it is. That, like all the rest, plays about the surface, and never introduces me into the reality, for contact with which, we would even pay the costly price of sons and lovers.

—Emerson

I am that pessimistic—yes—but for pragmatic reasons: doubt, disgust, and disappointment inoculate me against fashions and fanaticisms; pessimism allows me to live my life because it prevents me from getting too attached to anything, believing in anything too much, too dangerously. Pessimism allows me to live as a nobody—like Odysseus in the cave of the Cyclops. It’s a means of survival in a spiritually dangerous world.


My pessimism is a late late late late romanticism.


Pessimism is a toxin secreted by the super-ego: it’s a picture of the world as pictured through the self—a philosophy that has evolved through its contact with the obstacles and delusions of inner-life. Pessimism is a swerve away from the cliche of self-hatred into a more pragmatic and productive self-realism. It’s a homeopathy for the soul.


It’s not unfair, as well, to say that pessimism is a corrective lens, a way of viewing other people for what they are: warped by historical and ecological forces that cannot be, refuse to be, easily elucidated.


I want to, even if I fail, reject the fantasy of perma-presentism; I don’t want to allow myself to be amused, content, with constant digital and chemical consumption.

My sense is that the way most people cope with the fragility brought upon by too much comfort, too much stimulation, too much stuff—and too little time—is by turning their own endemic weaknesses into virtues, transforming terminologies rather than themselves. The optimism of the modern generic, spoonfed liberal—everything happens for a reason-ism—underwrites a kind of existential sophistry where you serve as your own ad agent.

It’s repugnant to accept the rebranding of despair and to project a cheery, sunny, pastel version of yourself.

I see no reason to the defend the human typology produced by modern institutions, technologies, and morals as right; I simply don’t think that it’s good to be physically weak, prematurely aged, SSRI-riddled, uncultured, uncritical, and naively ideological.

I think it’s actually quite evil.


In short, pessimism, as I experience, is the opposite of defeatism: it is actually idealism armed to the teeth.


Another bare fact: things are getting worse: accelerators are accelerating. Nothing in motion shows any sign of slowing down. Artificialness infects us and normalizes itself. To not be pessimistic about this means implicitly accepting the fakeness of modernity—to accept substitutes and not the Real thing.


Pessimism is a Quixotism and a humanism—it’s…