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On Walden Pond

Optimism and Pessimism, Cynicism and Idealism





Nothing has such power to broaden the mind as the ability to investigate systematically and truly all that comes under thy observation in life.
     Marcus Aurelius


Well, some people are blind. That's very often brought to my attention.
     Elwood P. Dowd (James Stewart) in Mary Chase
     and Oscar Brodney, Harvey (movie, 1950)


"Yes I have a pair of eyes," replied Sam, "and that's just it. If they was a pair l' patent double million magnifyin' gas microscopes of hextra power, p'raps I might be able to see through a flight o' stairs and a deal door; but bein' only eyes, you see, my vision's limited."
     Sam Weller in Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers (1837)


"You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear."
     Sherlock Holmes in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, 
     The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1892)
     "A Scandal in Bohemia"


"The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes."
     Sherlock Holmes in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, 
     The Hound of the Baskervilles (1901)


"You see everything." [said James Dodd]
"I see no more than you, but I have trained myself to notice what I see."
     Sherlock Holmes in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, 
     The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes (1927)
     "The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier"


Many eyes go through the meadow, but few see the flowers in it.
     Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journals


We usually see only the things we are looking for — so much so that we sometimes see them where they are not.
     Eric Hoffer, The Passionate State of Mind (1954)


A man has to see, and not just look.
     Louis L'Amour, The Quick and the Dead


There is no such thing as unprejudiced observation. Every act of observation we make is biased. What we see or otherwise sense is a function of what we have seen or sensed in the past.
     Peter Medawar, "Is the Scientific Paper a Fraud?" (1963)


Aristotle was a pioneer, perhaps, in what I believe to be the commonest form of self-deception in science: the kind of attachment to a dearly loved hypothesis that predisposes us (yes, all of us) to attach a special weight to observations that square with and thus uphold our pet hypotheses, while finding reasons for disregarding or attaching little weight to observations and experiments that cast doubt upon them. There is no one who does not roll out the welcome mat with a flourish for those who bring evidence that upholds our favourite preconceptions.
     Peter Medawar, "Scientific Fraud" (London 
     Review of Books, 17-30 November 1983)


The observer, when he seems to himself to be observing a stone, is really, if physics is to be believed, observing the effects of the stone upon himself.
     Bertrand Russell, An Inquiry Into Meaning and Truth (1940)


Aristotle could have avoided the mistake of thinking that women have fewer teeth than men, by the simple device of asking Mrs. Aristotle to keep her mouth open while he counted. He did not do so because he thought he knew. Thinking that you know when in fact you don't is a fatal mistake, to which we are all prone.
     Bertrand Russell, Unpopular Essays (1950)
     "An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish"


When Kepler found his long-cherished belief did not agree with the most precise observation, he accepted the uncomfortable fact. He preferred the hard truth to his dearest illusions, that is the heart of science.
     Carl Sagan, Cosmos (1980)


So the universe is mostly microwave photons, neutrinos, and dark matter. None of these components is visible to the naked eye, demonstrating the paucity of information that unaided human sensory observations provide about the universe. Modern science began when Galileo turned his telescope on the heavens and saw that the earth was not the center of the universe. Before we learned to build instruments, we knew almost nothing. All the folklore and mystical revelations of centuries gave us no hint of the universe now revealed by our instruments.
     Victor J. Stenger, Physics and Psychics: The Search 
     for a World Beyond the Senses (1990)


In man's brain the impressions from outside are not merely registered; they produce concepts and ideas. They are the imprint of the external world upon the human brain. Therefore, it is not surprising that, after a long period of searching and erring, some of the concepts and ideas in human thinking should have come gradually closer to the fundamental laws of this world, that some of our thinking should reveal the true structure of atoms and the true movements of the stars. Nature, in the form of man, begins to recognize self.
     Victor Frederick Weisskopf, Knowledge and Wonder (1962)



Offensive Stuff


Caution: Read no further if you are easily offended. [Thanks for confirming what I suspected about you.]
     Ashleigh Brilliant


Being offended is the natural consequence of leaving one's home.
     Fran Lebowitz, Social Studies (1981)
     "When Smoke Gets in Your Eyes . . . Shut Them"


Be respectful to your superiors, if you have any. Also to strangers. And sometimes to others. If a person offend you are you are in doubt as to whether it was intentional or not, do not resort to extreme measures. Simply watch your chance and hit him with a brick. That will be sufficient. If you shall find that he had not intended any offense, come out frankly and confess yourself in the wrong when you struck him. Acknowledge it like a man and say you didn't mean to. Yes, always avoid violence. In this age of charity and kindliness the time has gone by for such things. Leave dynamite to the low and unrefined.
     Mark Twain, "Advice To Youth" (speech, 1882)



On Walden Pond


Any fool can make a rule, and every fool will mind it.
     Henry David Thoreau


Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined. As you simplify your life, the law of the universe will be simpler.
     Henry David Thoreau


I quarrel not with far-off foes, but with those who, near at home, co-operate with, and do the bidding of those far away, and without whom the latter would be harmless.
     Henry David Thoreau "Civil Disobedience" (1866)


The greater part of what my neighbors call good I believe in my soul to be bad, and if I repent of any thing, it is very likely to be my good behavior. What demon possessed me that I behaved so well?
     Henry David Thoreau, Walden, or, Life in the Woods (1854)


One generation abandons the enterprises of another like stranded vessels.
     Henry David Thoreau, Walden, or, Life in the Woods (1854)


Man has invented, not only houses, but clothes and cooked food; and possibly from the accidental discovery of the warmth of fire, and the consequent use of it, at first a luxury, arose the present necessity to sit by it.
     Henry David Thoreau, Walden, or, Life in the Woods (1854)


I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion.
     Henry David Thoreau, Walden, or, Life in the Woods (1854)


But lo! men have become tools of their tools.
     Henry David Thoreau, Walden, or, Life in the Woods (1854)


If I have got to drag my trap, I will take care that it be a light one and do not nip me in a vital part. But perchance it would be wisest never to put one's paw into it.
     Henry David Thoreau, Walden, or, Life in the Woods (1854)


... a man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.
     Henry David Thoreau, Walden, or, Life in the Woods (1854)
     "Where I Lived, and What I Lived For"


I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.
     Henry David Thoreau, Walden, or, Life in the Woods (1854)
     "Where I Lived, and What I Lived For"


Our life is frittered away by detail. An honest man has hardly need to count more than his ten fingers, or in extreme cases he may add his ten toes, and lump the rest. Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb nail. .... Simplify, simplify.
     Henry David Thoreau, Walden, or, Life in the Woods (1854)
     "Where I Lived, and What I Lived For"


Why should we live with such hurry and waste of life? We are determined to be starved before we are hungry.
     Henry David Thoreau, Walden, or, Life in the Woods (1854)
     "Where I Lived, and What I Lived For"


I love a broad margin to my life.
     Henry David Thoreau, Walden, or, Life in the Woods (1854)


Follow your genius closely enough, and it will not fail to show you a fresh prospect every hour.
     Henry David Thoreau, Walden, or, Life in the Woods (1854)


I go and come with a strange liberty in Nature, a part of herself.
     Henry David Thoreau, Walden, or, Life in the Woods (1854)


I have found that no exertion of the legs can bring two minds much nearer to one another.
     Henry David Thoreau, Walden, or, Life in the Woods (1854)


The amount of it is, if a man is alive, there is always danger that he may die, though the danger must be allowed to be less in proportion as he is dead-and-alive to begin with. A man sits as many risks as he runs.
     Henry David Thoreau, Walden, or, Life in the Woods (1854)


I learned this at least by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live that life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. ... In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.
     Henry David Thoreau, Walden, or, Life in the Woods (1854)


I fear chiefly lest my expression may not be extra- vagant enough, may not wander far enough beyond the narrow limits of my daily experience, so as to be adequate to the truth of which I have been convinced. Extra vagance! it depends on how you are yarded.
     Henry David Thoreau, Walden, or, Life in the Woods (1854)


However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names. It is not so bad as you are. It looks poorest when you are richest. The fault-finder will find faults even in paradise. Love your life, poor as it is. You may perhaps have some pleasant, thrilling, glorious hours, even in a poor-house.
     Henry David Thoreau, Walden, or, Life in the Woods (1854)


There is an incessant influx of novelty into the world, and yet we tolerate incredible dullness.
     Henry David Thoreau, Walden, or, Life in the Woods (1854)


The light which puts out our eyes is darkness to us. Only that day dawns to which we are awake. There is more day to dawn. The sun is but a morning star.
     Henry David Thoreau, Walden, or, Life in the Woods (1854)


Of what consequence, though our planet explode, if there is no character involved in the explosion? In health we have not the least curiosity about such events. We do not live for idle amusement. I would not run round a corner to see the world blow up.
     Henry David Thoreau, "Life Without Principle" (1862, first published 1863)


The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when one asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer. I am surprised, as well as delighted, when this happens, it is such a rare use he would make of me, as if he were acquainted with the tool.
     Henry David Thoreau "Life Without Principle" (1862, first published 1863)



Optimism and Pessimism, Cynicism and Idealism


Our notion of an optimist is a man who, knowing that each year was worse than the preceding, thinks next year will be better. And a pessimist is a man who knows the next year can't be any worse than the last one.
     Franklin Pierce Adams, quoted in Robert E. Drennan (ed.), 
     The Algonquin Wits (1985)


An optimist is simply a pessimist with no job experience.
     Dogbert in Scott Adams, Build A Better Life By Stealing Office 
     Supplies: Dogbert's Big Book of Business ("Dilbert," 1991)


DILBERT: (reading from newspaper) Our town hasn't had a murder since 1957.
Definition of an optimist:
DILBERT THINKS: We're safe forever.
Definition of a pessimist:
     Scott Adams, Bring Me the Head of Willy the Mailboy! ("Dilbert," 1995)


To me it seems to be important to believe people to be good even if they tend to be bad, because your own joy and happiness in life is increased in that way, and the pleasures of the belief outweigh the occasional disappointments. To be a cynic about people works just the other way around and makes you incapable of enjoying the good things.
     Isaac Asimov, "More Isaac Asimov, Himself" 
     (Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, Nov 1993)


Pessimism, when you get used to it, is just as agreeable as optimism.
     Arnold Bennett


Cynic, n. A blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are, not as they ought to be. Hence the custom among the Scythians of plucking out a cynic's eyes to improve his vision.
     Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)


Optimism, n. The doctrine or belief that everything is beautiful, including what is ugly, everything good, especially the bad, and everything right that is wrong. ... Being a blind faith, it is inaccessible to the light of disproof — an intellectual disorder, yielding to no treatment but death. It is hereditary, but fortunately not contagious.
     Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)


Optimist, n. A proponent of the doctrine that black is white.
     Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)


Pessimism, n. A philosophy forced upon the convictions of the observer by the disheartening prevalence of the optimist with his scarecrow hope and his unsightly smile.
     Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)


Cheer up! Things may be getting worse at a slower rate.
     Ashleigh Brilliant


I feel much better, now that I've given up hope.
     Ashleigh Brilliant


The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds; and the pessimist fears this is true.
     James Branch Cabell, The Silver Stallion (1926)


Some see the glass as half-empty, some see the glass as half-full. I see the glass as too big.
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)


Remember, inside every silver lining there's a dark cloud.
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)


After every horror, we're told, "Now the healing can begin." No. There is no healing. just a short pause before the next horror.
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)


THINGS HAVE TO GET BETTER, THEY CAN'T GET ANY WORSE. This is an example of truly faulty logic. Just because things can't get any worse, is no reason to believe they have to get better. They might just stay the same. And, by the way, who says things can't get any worse? For many people, things get worse and worse and worse.
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)


Optimism: the noble temptation to see too much in everything.
     G. K. Chesterton


A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.
     Sir Winston Churchill


Clarke calls himself an optimist because he estimates humanity's chance of survival as 51 percent.
     Arthur C. Clarke, paraphrased in Martin Gardner, 
     Gardner's Whys and Wherefores (1989)


A cynic is just a man who found out when he was about ten that there wasn't any Santa Claus, and he's still upset.
     James Gould Cozzens


Perpetual optimism is annoying. It is a sign that you are not paying attention.
     Maureen Dowd


Only the stoical and the cynical can preserve a measure of stability; yet stoicism is the wisdom of madness and cynicism the madness of wisdom. So none escapes.
     Bergen Evans, The Natural History of Nonsense (1945, 1958)


Conviction provokes perceptual optimism, just as scepticism taken to extremes will disavow the obvious.
     Richard Fortey, Life: A Natural History of the 
     First Four Billion Years of Life on Earth (1998)


He that lives upon hope will die fasting.
     Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanac


I find nothing more depressing than optimism.
     Paul Fussell


Idealism increases in direct proportion to one's distance from the problem.
     John Galsworthy


A cynic is not merely one who reads bitter lessons from the past, he is one who is prematurely disappointed in the future.
     Sydney J. Harris


Hope, we are taught, springs eternal; we are told less often that hope is a moron.
     Tony Hendra, The Book of Bad Virtues: A Treasury of Immorality (1994)


We make most of our mistakes when we are optimistic.
     Don Herold


A pessimist is a man who has been compelled to live with an optimist.
     Elbert Hubbard, The Note Book (1927)


An optimist is a fellow who believes what's going to be will be postponed.
     Elbert Hubbard


Hope is the only universal liar who never loses his reputation for veracity.
     Robert Ingersoll


What does a fool have except hope?
     Garrison Keillor, Wobegon Boy (1997)


Hope is the feeling you have that the feeling you have isn't permanent.
     Jean Kerr


I am neither an optimist nor pessimist, but a possibilist.
     Max Lerner


When two pessimists meet they shake heads instead of hands.
     Hunter Madsen


an optimist is a guy
that has never had
much experience
     Don Marquis, archy and mehitabel (1927)


every cloud
has its silver
living but it is
sometimes a little
difficult to get it to
the mint
     Don Marquis, archy and mehitabel (1927)


For many years I have been described as a cynic: I told the truth.
     W. Somerset Maugham


Nowadays most people are unwilling to contemplate — let alone to entertain — any set of beliefs that has no name attached to it. The general tone of my Presidential Address to the British Association may give the impression that I am an 'optimist,' but indeed I am no such thing, though I admit to a sanguine temperament. I prefer to describe myself as a 'meliorist' — one who believes that the world can be improved by finding out what is wrong with it and then taking steps to put it right.
     Peter Medawar, Pluto's Republic (1982) "Introduction"


A cynic is a man who, when he smells flowers, looks around for a coffin.
     H. L. Mencken


The cynics are right nine times out of ten.
     H. L. Mencken


Optimist — The sort of man who marries his sister's best friend.
     H. L. Mencken, A Mencken Chrestomathy (1949)
     "SententiŠ — Masculum et Feminam Creavit Eos"


An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.
     H. L. Mencken, A Mencken Chrestomathy (1949)
     "SententiŠ — The Mind of Man"


Hope is a pathological belief in the occurrence of the impossible.
     H. L. Mencken, A Mencken Chrestomathy (1949)
     "SententiŠ — The Mind of Man"


Cynics are only happy in making the world as barren for others as they have made it for themselves.
     George Meredith


I'm a pessimist about probabilities; I'm an optimist about possibilities.
     Lewis Mumford


Optimist: someone who tells you to cheer up when things are going his way.
     Edward R. Murrow


The optimist thinks that this is the best of all possible worlds, and the pessimist knows it.
     J. Robert Oppenheimer


A pessimist is a man who looks both ways before crossing a one-way street.
     Laurence Johnston Peter


A pessimist is a person who has not had enough experience to be a cynic.
     Mary Pettibone Poole


There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who, when presented with a glass that is exactly half full, say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What’s up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don’t think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!
    Terry Pratchett, The Truth (2000)


A realist lets circumstances decide which end of the telescope to look through.


He who has health has hope; and he who has hope, has everything.
     Arabian Proverb


Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you.
     Maori Proverb


Hope, thoroughly illusory though it is, at least carries us through life along an attractive road.
     Franšois, Duc de La Rochefoucauld,
     The Maxims (translated by Louis Kronenberger, 1936)


My pessimism goes to the point of suspecting the sincerity of the pessimists.
     Jean Rostand


They don't call me the anti-Pollyanna for nothing.
     Rita Rudner, Naked Beneath My Clothes:
     Tales of a Revealing Nature (1992)


I am an idealist. I don't know where I'm going, but I'm on my way.
     Carl Sandburg


In these times you have to be an optimist to open your eyes when you awake in the morning.
     Carl Sandburg


Do you know what a pessimist is? A man who thinks everybody as nasty as himself, and hates them for it.
     George Bernard Shaw


If you cannot look evil in the face without illusion, you will never know what it really is, or combat it effectually. The few persons who are able (relatively) to do this are ignorantly called cynics.
     George Bernard Shaw


The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it.
     George Bernard Shaw


My friend thought he was not gonna make it. Then he started thinking positive. Now he's positive he's not gonna make it.
     Brother Sammy Shore


I once posed the question, "What is the difference between an optimist and an incurable optimist?" Answer: "An optimist is one who says, "Everything is for the best; mankind will survive." An incurable optimist is one who says, "Everything is for the best; mankind will survive. And even if mankind doesn't survive, it is still for the best." Then there is the pessimistic optimist who sadly shakes his head and says, "I'm very much afraid that everything is for the best."
     Raymond Smullyan, 5000 B.C. and Other Philosophical Fantasies (1983)


Then you reach the final torment: utter despair poisoned still further by a shred of hope.
     Stendahl [Marie-Henri Beyle], Love


In this best of all possible worlds, everything is in a hell of a mess.
     Brother Theodore


In the long run men hit only what they aim at. Therefore, though they should fail immediately, they had better aim at something high.
     Henry David Thoreau, Walden, or, Life in the Woods (1854)


Thus we kept on like true idealists, rejecting the evidence of our senses, until at a turn in the road we heard the crackling and actually felt the heat of the fire from over the wall, and realized, alas! that we were there. The very nearness of the fire but cooled our ardor.
     Henry David Thoreau, Walden, or, Life in the Woods (1854)
     "Former Inhabitants; and Winter Visitors"


Far above the Ephel Duath in the West the night-sky was still dim and pale. There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach. His song in the Tower had been defiance rather than hope; for then he was thinking of himself. Now, for a moment, his own fate ceased to trouble him.
     J. R. R. Tolkien, The Return of the King (1956)


No matter how cynical you get, it is impossible to keep up.
     Lily Tomlin


Optimist: one who believes things are so bad they're bound to get better.
     Jerry Tucker


The man who is a pessimist before 48 knows too much; if he is an optimist after it, he knows too little.
     Mark Twain, Notebook, 1902


Pessimists are born not made; optimists are born not made; but no man is born either pessimist wholly or optimist wholly, perhaps; he is pessimistic along certain lines and optimistic along certain others. That is my case.
     Mark Twain, letter to Rev. L. M. Powers (Nov. 9, 1905)


Sixty years ago optimist and fool were not synonymous terms. This is a greater change than that wrought by science and invention. It is the mightiest change that was ever wrought in the world in any sixty years since creation.
     Mark Twain, Notebook, 1905


Diligently train your ideals upward and still upward toward a summit where you will find your chiefest pleasure in conduct which, while contenting you, will be sure to confer benefits upon your neighbor and the community.
     Mark Twain, "What Is Man?" (1906)


The wonder is not that Mark Twain so often preached the doctrine of despair during his later life, but that he did not exemplify it — that he did not become a misanthrope in fact.
     Mark Twain, Albert Bigelow Paine,
     Mark Twain: A Biography (1912)


Pessimist ——! the man who isn't a pessimist is a d——d fool.
     Mark Twain, Albert Bigelow Paine,
     Mark Twain: A Biography (1912)


It is at our mother's knee that we acquire our noblest and truest and highest ideals, but there is seldom any money in them.
     Mark Twain, Albert Bigelow Paine,
     Mark Twain: A Biography (1912)


At 50 a man can be an ass without being an optimist but not an optimist without being an ass.
     Mark Twain, More Maxims of Mark (Merle Johnson, ed., 1927)


Optimist: Day-dreamer in his small clothes.
     Mark Twain, More Maxims of Mark (Merle Johnson, ed., 1927)


Optimist: Day-dreamer more elegantly spelled.
     Mark Twain, More Maxims of Mark (Merle Johnson, ed., 1927)


Optimist: Person who travels on nothing from nowhere to happiness.
     Mark Twain, More Maxims of Mark (Merle Johnson, ed., 1927)


Pessimist: The optimist who didn't arrive.
     Mark Twain, More Maxims of Mark (Merle Johnson, ed., 1927)


Some of us cannot be optimists, but all of us can be bigamists.
     Mark Twain, More Maxims of Mark (Merle Johnson, ed., 1927)


There is no sadder sight than a young pessimist, except an old optimist.
     Mark Twain, More Maxims of Mark (Merle Johnson, ed., 1927)


Cheer up! The worst is yet to come.
     Mark Twain, quoted in Leonard Roy Frank (ed.), 
     Random House Webster's Wit and Humor Quotationary (2000)


A cynic is a person searching for an honest man, with a stolen lantern.


A pessimist is one who feels bad when he feels good for fear he'll feel worse when he feels better.


A pessimist is one who, when he has the choice of two evils, chooses both.


Look on the bright side: If the glass is half empty, then I must be half full.


Personality and fishing: The optimist baits the hook, the surrealist baits the anchor, the realist just goes to the store.


The advantage of being a pessimist is that all your surprises are pleasant.


'It is demonstrated,' [Pangloss] said, 'that things cannot be otherwise: for, since everything was made for a purpose, everything is necessarily for the best purpose. Note that noses were made to wear spectacles; we therefore have spectacles. Legs were clearly devised to wear breeches, and we have breeches.'
     Voltaire, Candide (1759)


Optimism is the folly of maintaining that everything is all right when we are wretched.
     Voltaire, Candide (1759)


If this is the best of all possible worlds, what are the others like?
     Voltaire, Candide (1759)


For two thirds of my life I have been a pessimist. I am astonished to find myself an optimist now. I feel now that I have been underestimating the intelligence and resourcefulness of man. I honestly thought that we were so stupid that we would continue to tear the planet to pieces, to well it to each other, to burn it up. I've never expected thermonuclear war. What seemed certain to me was that we would simply gobble up the planet out of boredom and greed, not in centuries, but in ten or twenty years.
     Kurt Vonnegut, Palm Sunday (1981)
     Graduation speech at Hobart and William Smith
     Colleges, Geneva, New York (May 26, 1975)


Only a person who risks is free. The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change and the realist adjusts the sails.
     William Arthur Ward, Risk


Cynicism is merely the art of seeing things as they are instead of as they ought to be.
     Oscar Wilde


The basis of optimism is sheer terror.
     Oscar Wilde


We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.
     Oscar Wilde, Lady Windermere's Fan (1892)


What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing.
     Oscar Wilde, Lady Windermere's Fan (1892)


A pessimist is one who builds dungeons in the air.
     Walter Winchell


Is the glass half-full or half-empty?





"Read it up — you really should. There is nothing new under the sun. It has all been done before."
     Sherlock Holmes in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle,
     A Study in Scarlet (1887)


The need to be right all the time is the biggest bar to new ideas. It is better to have enough ideas for some of them to be wrong than to be always right by having no ideas at all.
     Edward de Bono, Lateral Thinking


Originality is undetected plagiarism.
     W. R. Inge


Originality is the fine art of remembering what you hear but forgetting where you heard it.
     Laurence Johnston Peter


What a good thing Adam had — when he said a good thing he knew nobody had said it before.
     Mark Twain, Notebook, 1867


Originality is nothing but judicious imitation.