Monday, 07 April 2008

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What Does Being "More Pessimistic" Actually Entail? The concept of "pessimism" as a quantity seems utterly foreign to me. I've spent the early afternoon charting the events responsible for the growth of Mark Twain's pessimism. The resemblance to Kurt Vonnegut's diagram of The Metamorphosis is uncanny: Transpose those plot points into the real world and you get a sense of why Twain became increasingly pessimistic during the 1890s. Not that I know what that means anymore, mind you, because I can't currently wrap my head around pessimism as a quantifiable concept. Like when you repeatedly write your name until it no longer belongs to you then scribble it a couple hundred times more until the very concept of naming ceases to be meaningful. I doubt my befuddlement will abate anytime soon. You could say I'm pessimistic. How pessimistic am I? I am 23 pessimistic. I began this post 96 pessimistic. (In pessimism as in golf, a lower score is better.) Although I'm better pessimistic now than when I began writing, forecasters say my inability to account for the 74 point shift will likely cause a 16 point pessimistic swing. Would that it were so easy. Instead, I'm forced to determine whether Twain's more pessimistic after his business fails or his eldest daughter dies. Or after his youngest daughter develops epilepsy or his wife slips into permanent invalidism. Does his pessimism simply accumulate over time or does it fluctuate? Does his bankruptcy create a baseline of 54 pessimistic or does it temporarily knock him to 54 then allow him to recover? Does a minor tragedy at 51 pessimistic feel like a major one at 54? Is pessimism exponential? I'm not sure. I don't even know if pessimism is a limited resource. Does my being 18 pessimistic mean someone else must compensate for the other 14 dour points I should be feeling?

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