Monday, September 18, 2006

Pessimism - Clarence Darrow


Clarence Darrow

By Richard E. Noble

The majority of mankind lives in a state of denial. They spend the most of their lives trying to optimize life. Trying to convince themselves that it is not only a worthwhile experience, but that it is to one’s benefit to be born. This is a rationalization, probably brought about as a psychological compensation for our inability to control our sexual passions on the one side, and our genetic determinism on the other. Instead of telling our children the truth which is that we just couldn’t help ourselves. We were horny and driven by passion, lust, and stupidity; we make them think that we did them a service and a favor.
Life is by no stretch of the imagination a pleasant experience.
Clarence Darrow wrote a wonderful essay on this subject which he entitled, ‘The Consolations of Pessimism’. He begins this essay by stating that an optimist will never change the mind of a pessimist, and neither will the reverse happen. So, I guess that the only persons interested in this type of instruction are pessimists, and possibly, those that are still trying to make up their minds on the subject. Mister Darrow states the case for the pessimist eloquently. I could elaborate on it, but I doubt if I could improve it any.
He says that in his opinion ... “All optimists are dope fiends. And everybody is encouraged to take dope all through life.” He says that he agrees with Mark Twain who proposed the notion that intelligence is a curse, and that intelligence and happiness do not go together. He agrees with Schopenhauer and restates his premise that life is nothing more than ... “an unpleasant interruption of a peaceful nothingness.” He states that every religion in the world is based on the idea that death is not death. They are all trying to sew into the reality of life a psychotic silver lining, but all of their sowing leaves the King of life and this Existence, as naked as the day he was born.
Another facet of the optimist is his capacity to build man or the human species, more specifically his or her self, into a super natural creature ... greater than all other life on the planet ... with a capacity for universalizing his thoughts to the borders of divinity. I call this ‘ego-promorphism’. In answer to this idiosyncrasy Clarence quotes Schopenhauer once again ... “You ask me to love my fellow-man because of his nobility, his greatness of character. I can not do it, for I know better. But if you ask me to love him because of his helplessness, because of his weaknesses, that are common to him and to me, then I can sympathize with him and I can help him.”
Mister Darrow ends his lecture with this advise; “... It is all a question of taking life as life is. If you have tried all kinds of dope, as most of us have, and none of it will work, and you are bound to look at life as life is, then look at all of it, and prepare for the worst. It takes away the shock.”
Clarence adds that once he is dead, he could think of no greater curse than to be brought back into existence. If anyone brings him back from the dust of death to live once again, his first act will be to kill that person, he warns.

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