This isn’t quite what I’d planned for my first blog, post #AtoZChallenge, but then life is like that sometimes.

I was listening to Classic FM at the weekend, and the overture to Bernstein’s Candide came on.  I’ve loved this piece since the first time I heard it: it has fantastic energy, and like all good overtures it gives you a snapshot of the music for the whole opera in a few minutes.  One of these days perhaps I’ll get round to listening to the whole thing.

Anyway, this got me thinking.  Candide was originally a satirical novel by Voltaire, it’s quite good fun, and if I hadn’t given up on French when I was very young, perhaps I’d even give it a go in its original language.  Or perhaps not.  Probably the most famous quote from it is:

The optimist believes we live in the best of all possible worlds; the pessimist fears that this is true.”

You’ve probably come across this before, but perhaps not known where it comes from. It’s witty enough, and as an epigram it is certainly up there with the best of them. I quite like it – like the overture, it’s stuck with me since the first time I heard it.  But whilst listening to the radio and thinking about this, I was suddenly struck by quite how cynical it is.  It’s not something that I’d really taken the time to think about before.  So, I wondered, could one describe the optimist/pessimist relationship, in a…well…more optimistic way?  Here’s my attempt:

The optimist believes that it is possible to change the world for the better.  The pessimist fears that they might succeed.

What do you think?




2 thoughts on “Optimism

  1. Oh well…I’m going to whale in here without a clue (as usual). Have I read Candide? If I did, it was so long ago, I can’t remember. I think it’s all about feelings in the first quote….the optimist believes (thereby suspending disbelief)…the pessimist fears (rather than hopes). In your interpretation the optimist knows that change is necessary and is willing to act and make it better (most likely in the way that pleases them) – the pessimist fears that the world will be fashioned to the optimist’s liking. Whereas in the first example I think Hugo is implying that the optimist has no idea that the world is a sad sick place and just makes the best of everything or “hopes for the best” rather than actively doing anything about it. And the pessimist will never be satisfied, no matter how good it gets. P.S. Good post, cos I will be thinking about it all day 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks – glad you liked it! Very much from the heart and off the cuff. Good whale as well – you’ve articulated something that I think was starting to percolate through, but which I hadn’t yet arrived at.


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