THERE is, I believe, no finer quality in a person than a healthy dose of pessimism. Such people are for me.
There is something heroic about looking disappointment square in the eye and asking how he is; something courageous about keeping friends with the fundamental human truth that things won’t be all right, that life won’t go to plan, that even as you’re looking into the metaphorical works thinking how spanner-free they look, fate is probably reaching for her tool box.
It is pessimism which builds a roof when the sun is shining, packs the lifeboat before the ship sails, and soothes the heartache when one hears Gang Of Four advertising mobiles.
It is pessimism which propels people towards perfection – in sport, in literature, in cooking a lasagne – by always whispering in their ear that what they’ve achieved already isn’t yet good enough.
To be optimistic is not to be hopeful.
It is to be ignorant of the ways of the world.
It is a personality trait which proves one has been short-changed by evolution.
Which is strange because this week an investigation suggested roughly 80 per cent of the UK’s adult population would consider themselves optimists.
Maybe this is because to be the opposite is frowned upon: a pessimist, said George Bernard Shaw for instance, is “a person who thinks everybody is as nasty as himself and hates them for it”.
Except, my old Irish chum, that’s just plain wrong.
A pessimist is actually someone who has spent too long living with the disappointment of optimists.
For, just as protesting pacifists – especially the vegan ones, it always seems – have a strangely brutish core of malevolence running through them; so ultimately a pessimist has a core of (realistic) aspiration.
Sure they prepare for the worst (because it’s always the most likely outcome) but they also hope, if not for the best, at least for something not too awful.
All of which chimed when I heard about the death of Apple-founder Steve Jobs, a man widely considered to be the ultimate optimist.
Such is the esteem world leaders, global tycoons and geeky fanboys have for his so-called inspirational outlook, the Apple boss’s iPad has barely cooled down this week before a book of his sayings is being rushed into print.
It’s to be called – a stroke of genius this, I thought – I, Steve.
See what they did there?
Except I can’t help but think old Jobs was actually something of a pessimist in reality.
For famously he inspired himself by asking the mirror each morning: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?”
Clearly his answer was different to mine – because if tonight was my closing call I’d probably be eating, drinking and broaching a few taboo subjects with her right now – but if that’s not the ultimate pessimist’s question I don’t know what is.
Jobs always answered yes.
He prepared for the worst and aimed for greatness.
Conclusion? For sure we should all be pessimists.
The world would be a far more hopeful place.