The Optimist and the Pessimist

I saw this written on a bathroom wall today:

Life can get better!
Then              🙂

I was struck by the art of these two statements, literally orthogonal to each other.

I wondered which came first.

Did it start with the “pessimistic” message, followed by the encouraging “…can get better!” or did it happen the other way around?

I wonder which person drew the smiley face.

I put pessimistic in quotations above because I imagine that’s how most people would classify a comment like, “Life suck[s] then you die.” But I’m not sure I would.

Perhaps because I’m a contrarian and the general conflagration of “optimism” with “good” and “pessimism” with “bad” just makes me root for the pessimists.

But part of what moves me about this wall art is that while the sentiments seems contradictory…they really don’t have to be.

I’ll take as a given that whatever the state of life, it is true that “then you die.” So for simplicity, the statements simply read: “Life can get better; life sucks.”

Those don’t seem mutually exclusive at all. In fact, both statements hold truth. And to see them together seems meaningful.

I’ve never been comfortable with the division of people into optimists and pessimists.As if everyone at all times should be either an energetic Tiger bouncing off the walls and never feeling sad, or a dull, depressed Eore moping through the hallways and never feeling anything.

But most of us are both of those things; reveling in some times and languishing in others.

They say the best thing about being happy is that you think you’ll never be unhappy again. And the converse is true as well: the worst thing about being unhappy is that you think you’ll never be happy again.

So we envision these stark divisions. The optimist and the pessimist. The happy and the sad. The light and the dark. Two states that can never mix.

I like to imagine that the same person wrote both comments. Life sucks, life can get better. Life can get better, life sucks.

Then one day, they added the smiley face, when at last they came to peace with a feeling that both states were true.


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