Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Name that quote

Read these words and try to determine their source.

"Our earth is degenerate in these latter days.  Bribery and corruption are common.  Children no longer obey their parents.  The end of the world is evidently approaching."

Were they spoken by members of the political left or the right?  Were they heard on CNN, NPR, Fox news or on an End-of-the-world-Mayan-calendar-2012 blog?

Before I answer that, I'd like to say something about the philosophy of pessimism, which has some prevalence in society today.

This is a wonderful philosophy for those who wish to never be wrong without exertion.  With smug superiority, anyone can look at a project, a civilization or a planet and say, "it'll fail."  Then, all one needs to do to apply his philosophy is sit back and wait.  Any apparent success is just further fodder for a belief in failure, as everyone knows that, "The higher they fly, the further they fall."

Most of the people I know are not pessimists.  Anyone who would donate to a building or to a church must have some belief that their actions can create a positive result.  A pessimist would look at any such effort and write it off as doomed for failure.  Here, I agree with G. K. Chesterton, who said that a pessimist is someone who "thinks that everything is bad, except himself."

Optimists are not starry-eyed dreamers who believe, with Candide, that "it's all for the best in the best of all possible worlds."  Rather, an optimist believes that his (and his society's) endeavors will go well  - because he's willing to do something to make them go well.

Optimism does have a cost - it requires action.  However, I believe that we are willing to pay that cost in the interest of getting the show on the road.

By contrast, there is no cost for being a pessimist.  It's a very comfortable position to adopt, as in the end, one can always claim he was right.

The above quote is not a modern one.  It was not spoken by Rush Limbaugh or written in a pithy New York Times editorial.

It is inscribed on a gravestone which written in 2800 BC.


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