The Delusions of the Optimist

“Only optimists commit suicide, optimists who no longer succeed at being optimists. The others, having no reason to live, why would they have any to die?” —Emil Cioran

Ever notice on most bookseller sites there are only a couple dozen works on pessimism or so, while there are literally tens of thousands of self-help books published every year on overcoming this dark view of life? It’s hilarious all the self-help hucksters who spin the positivity message of optimism and happiness.

I thought at first this guy Mark Hanson with his The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life might be a poor readers almanac to the lesser road of cynicism and pessimism for the masses. But reading through parts of it one sees it’s a con job, it’s really an optimist’s take on how to survive in a world of crap, how to build up a new set of illusions to prolong the delusion of one’s happy life in misery. Here he is giving his dime shoe wisdom for the masses:

“I remember staring into the black Texas night and watching my ego slowly dissolve into it. Josh’s death taught me much more than I initially realized. Yes, it helped me to seize the day, to take responsibility for my choices, and to pursue my dreams with less shame and inhibition.

But these were side effects of a deeper, more primary lesson. And the primary lesson was this: there is nothing to be afraid of. Ever. And reminding myself of my own death repeatedly over the years— whether it be through meditation, through reading philosophy, or through doing crazy shit like standing on a cliff in South Africa— is the only thing that has helped me hold this realization front and center in my mind. This acceptance of my death, this understanding of my own fragility, has made everything easier— untangling my addictions, identifying and confronting my own entitlement, accepting responsibility for my own problems— suffering through my fears and uncertainties, accepting my failures and embracing rejections— it has all been made lighter by the thought of my own death. The more I peer into the darkness, the brighter life gets, the quieter the world becomes, and the less unconscious resistance I feel to, well, anything.”

—Mark Manson. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

There it is the Great Optimist’s answer, the solution to the Riddle: “There is nothing to be afraid of. Ever.”

Oh, my, I guess we can all put down our books on criminology, madness, horror, mayhem, war, climate change, political malfeasance and corruption, poverty, racism, gender inequality…. etc. We can all join hands in a great song of Kumbaya repeated endlessly across the scream of the world…

You notice how he uses “my” as if he still believed in the fictive self, the last illusion-delusion of the optimist? In the above it’s a litany of self-acceptance, of bolstering the great ego’s remaining defense systems, the Human Security System at its finest hour. Him peering into the darkness as his optimistic life gets brighter, resisting nothing, especially the need of bliss, happiness, and the illusion that all is well with the world. I think Leibniz believed that too… of course Schopenhauer had a thing or two to say about that grand delusion. Against Leibniz’s “best of all possible worlds,” the old goat said we should “not be pleased but rather sorry about the existence of the world.” That’s the beginning and end of pessimism. Of course, try selling that to an optimist and he’ll hand you a self-help book on how to overcome such depressing ideas. 🙂