The Optimist's/Pessimist's Handbook: A Companion to Hope/Despair

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9781439159538: The Optimist's/Pessimist's Handbook: A Companion to Hope/Despair
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The mere sense of living is joy enough.
Emily Dickinson, 1830-1886, American poet

Humanity's story is one long testimony to the truth that life is as rewarding and beautiful as you make it. As pioneers, inventors, and dreamers have always known, you can do anything if only you persevere. Ever since we hauled ourselves out of the swamp, our history has been one of extraordinary cultural and technological progress, of mind-boggling discoveries and remarkable achievements, often against the odds. It's no coincidence that you see no statues of pessimists in city squares.

Still, cynical and doubting voices are heard all too loudly and frequently in public discourse. A potent antidote to their gloom and doom, The Optimist's Handbook is a joyful explosion of wit and wisdom from our past and present that celebrates the art of greeting life with the excitement it deserves. This handbook will inspire, enchant, and entertain you as you go forward into all your wonderful tomorrows. Even if, after reading it, you are not moved to feats of glory for the greater good, the fact is that optimists are healthier, happier, and richer than their gloomy counterparts. Hear that, killjoys?

The world is a grindstone and life is your nose.
Fred Allen, 1894-1956, American humorist

Why beat around the bush? The truth is that life is a never-ending cycle of toil and pain with nothing but death to reward all our suffering. Furthermore, what solace is there in blind optimism or fanciful daydreaming when it is perfectly clear that the world is heading toward a complete meltdown whether we live in it or not? Resigning yourself to life's grim treadmill, and thereby avoiding more disappointments, is the best way to trudge forward.

The Pessimist's Handbook is an indispensable companion on your journey through this vale of tears. A clear-sighted, realistic look at life's obstacles, this guidebook is stocked with the pearls of wisdom you need to counter the irritating voices of those who trumpet futile positivity and inane confidence in a brighter future. Feel reassured that scores of people share your sense of impending doom...and have done so for centuries. After all, misery loves company, but not when it's a horde of perky utopians.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

Niall Edworthy is an author and journalist. He is the author of The Curious Gardender’s Almanac and over a dozen other books under a variety of guises and noms de plume, covering military history, biography, sport, general humor, and gardening. He lives in West Sussex with his wife and two children.

The following are the author's biographical blurbs as they appear in The Optimist's/Pessimist's Handbook:

The Optimist's Handbook:
Niall Edworthy is the celebrated author of twenty books, making him a hero to many around the globe. Commentators say it is just a matter of time before he sweeps the board of literary awards, turns down a seat in the House of Lords and retires from his estate in the Home Counties to a tropical island, a robust, over-sexed, eight-figure-millionaire philanthropist.

The Pessimist's Handbook:
Over the past decade Niall Edworthy has made a poor to modest living as a jobbing hack. An ongoing disappointment to his dysfunctional family and both his friends, Niall spends his days in a cold garage in the middle of nowhere typing nonsense into an old computer with the one finger not yet afflicted by RSI. His magnum opus, Life Is a Bowl of Toenail Clippings, remains unfinished.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

LIFE

There is no wealth but life.

John Ruskin, 1819-1900, English author and poet

There's night and day, brother, both sweet things; sun, moon, and stars, brother, all sweet things; there's likewise a wind on the heath. Life is very sweet, brother; who would wish to die?

George Borrow, 1803-1881, English author, Lavengro (1851)

Life is:

...a pure flame, and we live by an invisible Sun within us.

Sir Thomas Browne, 1605-1682, English author

...the art of drawing sufficient conclusions from insufficient premises.

Samuel Butler, 1835-1902, English novelist

...colour and warmth and light

And a striving evermore for these...

Julian Grenfell, 1888-1915, English poet, "Into Battle"

The mere sense of living is joy enough.

Emily Dickinson, 1830-1886, American poet

December 22, 1912

Palaeontology has its comfortable words too. I have revelled in my littleness and irresponsibility. It has relieved me of the harassing desire to live, I feel content to live dangerously, indifferent to my fate; I have discovered I am a fly, that we are all flies, that nothing matters. It's a great load off my life, for I don't mind being such a microorganism -- to me the honour is sufficient of belonging to the universe -- such a great universe, so grand a scheme of things. Not even Death can rob me of that honour. For nothing can alter the fact that I have lived; I have been I, if for ever so short a time.

W. N. P. Barbellion, 1889-1919, British naturalist, Journal of a Disappointed Man (1919)

I slept and dreamed that life was joy,

I awoke and saw that life was duty,

I acted, and behold duty was joy.

Rabindranath Tagore, 1861-1941, winner of the 1913 Nobel Prize for Literature

Pleasure is the beginning and the goal of a happy life.

Epicurus, 341-270 BC, Greek philosopher

Is it so small a thing to have enjoyed the sun,

To have lived light in the spring,

To have loved,

To have thought,

To have done?

Matthew Arnold, 1822-1888, "The Hymn of Empedocles" (1852)

If you feel that life is one of God's jokes, there is still no reason why we shouldn't make it a good joke.

Kenneth Williams, 1926-1988, British actor

LOVE

There is only one happiness in life, to love and be loved.

George Sand, 1804-1876, French author

Love

...is a fruit in season at all times, and within reach of every hand.

Mother Teresa, 1910-1997, Catholic missionary

...is one soul inhabiting two bodies.

Aristotle, 384-322 BC

...is someone you can be silly with.

Cecil Beaton, 1904-1980, photographer

I shall show you a love philtre compounded without drug or herb or witches' spell. It is this: if you wish to be loved, love.

Hecato, c. 100 BC, Stoic philosopher

The Meaning of Love

Those four letters, L-O-V-E, contain multitudes. The Ancient Greeks used three different words in place of our catch-all one: Agape, the love that people have for God, duty, or family; Philia, which denoted the love we feel for friends; and Eros, love for a lover.

The simple act of falling in love is as beneficial as it is astonishing.

Robert Louis Stevenson, 1850-1894, Scottish writer

Man has bought brains, but all the millions in the world have failed to buy love. Man has subdued bodies, but all the power on earth has been unable to subdue love. Man has conquered whole nations, but all his armies could not conquer love. Man has chained and fettered the spirit, but he has been utterly helpless before love. High on a throne, with all the splendor and pomp his gold can command, man is yet poor and desolate, if love passes him by. And if it stays, the poorest hovel is radiant with warmth, with life and color. Thus love has the magic power to make of a beggar a king.

Emma Goldman, 1869-1940, anarchist, "Marriage and Love," in Anarchism and Other Essays (1911)

If I can't love Hitler, I can't love at all.

Rev. A. J. Muste, 1885-1967, American pacifist, at a Quaker meeting in 1940

According to proverbial wisdom from all around the world, Love:

makes the world go round; will find a way; teaches even donkeys to dance; sees roses without thorns; pays no attention to dignity; makes the impossible possible; rules without rules; makes labor light; laughs at locksmiths; can be neither bought nor sold; rules his kingdom without a sword; understands all languages; conquers all; is as strong as death.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I Love thee to the depth and breadth and height

My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight

For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.

I love thee to the level of everyday's

Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.

I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;

I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.

I love thee with the passion put to use

In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.

I love thee with a love I seemed to lose

With my lost saints, -- I love thee with the breath,

Smiles, tears, of all my life! -- and, if God choose,

I shall but love thee better after death.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, 1806-1861, English poet, Sonnets from the Portuguese (1850)

MARRIAGE

It Must Be Love

The Harian Metro newspaper in Malaysia recently reported that a thirty-three-year-old man from the north of the country has married a 104-year-old woman. It is the man's first marriage and the bride's twenty-first. Muhamad, an ex-army serviceman, declared that he had found peace and a strong sense of belonging after meeting Wook Kundor. The groom went on to say that he couldn't be accused of going after his wife's money as she had none.

Who said Iranian women were oppressed? A wife in Iran has managed to have her husband condemned for his avarice in a court of law. The stingy husband was ordered to buy 124,000 red roses for his wife. The court seized the man's apartment until all the roses appeared.

As reported in the Iranian daily, Etemad.

There is no more lovely, friendly and charming relationship, communion or company than a good marriage.

Martin Luther, 1483-1546, German theologian

Marriage Is Good For You

According to Professor Andrew Oswald, of Warwick University, "the singleton life is seriously bad for your health and can be almost as bad as smoking," while the wedded life actually boosts the immune system. If that's a bit too vague, research presented to the American Psychosomatic Society shows that, if you're happily married, cuts and grazes are likely to heal more quickly. Researchers monitored forty-two couples and found that their (medically induced) minor wounds healed almost twice as fast among those happily married than among those less so.

Marriage is the result of the longing for the deep, deep peace of the double bed after the hurly-burly of the chaise-longue.

Mrs. Patrick Campbell, 1865-1940, British stage actress

...In what stupid age or nation

Was marriage ever out of fashion?

Samuel Butler, 1612-1680, English poet

Man's best possession is a sympathetic wife.

Euripides, 484-406 BC, Antigone

The Virgin Islands, ironically, is the place with the highest marriage rate in the world.

There was an old man from Orissa...Eighty-year-old Udaynath Dakshiniray, from India, has had ninety wives and twenty-nine children. All his ninety wives were from impoverished families and, before tying the knot, he presented each one with at least five acres of land. The Asian Age reports that when asked why he had married so often, Dakshiniray said he was on a social mission to help women overcome social stigma and harassment. He had started out in life with over four hundred acres of land and others weren't as fortunate as he. Udaynath Dakshiniray intends to carry on marrying. In fact, he claims to have recently received nine offers of marriage from abroad, from the United States, Japan, Hungary, and Germany. Serial monogamy as social service -- could it catch on?

Marriage, it has been proven, makes men more successful and richer. The 10 to 40 percent wage premium married men receive compared to their unmarried counterparts is in fact "one of the most well-documented phenomena in social science."

Sir Temulji Bhicaji Nariman and Lady Nariman, from India, and Lazarus Rowe and Molly Webber, from the United States, share the world record for the longest marriage: eighty-six years. According to records, the oldest couple ever to wed was François Fernandez, aged ninety-six, and Madeleine Francineau, aged ninety-four, in 2002.

MEDIA

I think it's fair to say that personal computers have become the most empowering tool we've ever created. They're tools of communication, they're tools of creativity, and they can be shaped by their user.

Bill Gates, b. 1955, American businessman

Let me make the newspapers, and I care not what is preached in the pulpit or what is enacted in Congress.

Wendell Phillips, 1811-1862, American abolitionist and orator

The BBC World Service is perhaps Britain's greatest gift to the world this century.

Kofi Annan, b. 1938, UN secretary-general, in 1999

The printing press is the greatest weapon in the armoury of the modern commander.

T. E. Lawrence, 1888-1935, British soldier and writer

It's not that the world has got much worse, just that the news coverage has got so much better.

Often attributed to G. K. Chesterton, 1874-1936

In these times we fight ...

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