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Optimism Vs. Pessimism
by [?]


I am in receipt of a long letter from a Missouri minister, in which, to my surprise, he says: “I regret to note that you are a Pessimist. Permit me to express the hope that so powerful a journal as the ICONOCLAST will yet espouse the sunny philosophy of Optimism, which teaches that all that is accords with the Plan of the Creator, and works together for the ultimate good.”

“God moves in a mysterious way his wonders to perform.”

I had not hitherto suspected that I was inoculated with the awful microbes of Pessimism, but if my reverend friend is a professor in the sunny school of Optimism, I certainly do not belong to that sect. If “all that is accords with the Plan of the Creator,” did not Christ deserve to be crucified for bringing about new conditions, and Galileo to go to jail for interfering with the stupid ignorance of certain Catholic cardinals? Can even the Missouri minister be held guiltless when he attempts to turn my thinking apparatus around and make it operate from the other end? Surely he should not interfere in even so slight a particular with the “Plan of the Creator,” who may have been moving “in a mysterious way his wonders to perform” when he gave the supposedly pessimistic bend to my mind. Nay, if my Christian friend do but have the rheumatism, should he not refrain from poulticing himself, lest he throw the celestial machinery out of gear? If changes wrought in religion, science, government, etc., constitute a portion of the “Plan,” we must concede it to have originally been a very faulty affair–quite upsetting the optimistic theory that “Whatever is is right.”

The terms Pessimism and Optimism are handled very loosely in these latter days. In the modern acceptance of the terms, the first may be defined as a chronic intellectual bellyache, the latter as an incurable case of mossbackism. The thorough Pessimist believes the world is going in hot haste to the demnition bowwows, and that nothing short of a miracle can head it off; the full-fledged Optimist carries concealed about his person an abiding faith that “God ordereth all things well”–that he not only designed the mighty universe, but is giving his personal attention to the details of its management. Really, I do not believe I am Pessimist to hurt, or that my reverend critic is so dangerously ill of the Optimistic disease as he imagines. Perhaps he has been living too high for great intellectual effort. Were he in the condition of some millions of his fellow creatures, the cuticle of whose abdomens is flapping against their vertebrae like a wet dish-rag wrapping itself around a wire clothesline, perhaps there would not be quite so much sunshine in his philosophy. The man with whom the world goes well is apt to prattle of the “ultimate good” when considering the woes of other people.

The basis of Optimism is foreordination, the foolish faith that before God created the majestic universe and sent the planets whirling about the blazing sun; that before the first star gleamed in the black, overhanging firmament or a single mountain peak rose from the watery waste, he calmly sat him down and mapped out every act of moral man–decreed every war and pestilence, the rise and fall of every nation, and fixed the date of every birth and death. That may be excellent “orthodoxy,” but it is not good sense. I reject the theory that all the happenings here below “accord with the Plan of the Creator–work together for the ultimate good.” Hence, I am not an Optimist. I dare not accuse my Creator of being responsible for all the sin and sorrow, suffering and shame that since the dawn of history has bedewed the world with blood and tears.