Quotations about   pessimism

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sometimes you climb out of bed in the morning and you think,
I’m not going to make it, but you laugh inside
remembering all the times you’ve felt that way

Charles Bukowski (1920-1994) German-American author, poet
“Gamblers All” (1990)
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Originally titled "8 Count and Up".
Added on 10-Nov-21 | Last updated 10-Nov-21
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Good news goes unnoticed. This is a well-known property of the press in the free world. Improvements are never dramatic. Life improves slowly and goes wrong fast, and only catastrophe is clearly visible.

Edward Teller (1908-2003) Hungarian-American theoretical physicist
The Pursuit of Simplicity (1980)
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Added on 24-Sep-21 | Last updated 24-Sep-21
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A pessimist looks at his glass and says it is half empty; an optimist looks at it and says it is half full.

Josiah Stamp
Josiah Stamp (1880-1941) English industrialist, economist, statistician, banker
Comment (1935)

There is substantial evidence that Stamp used this now-cliched phrase, or variations of it, on multiple spoken occasions in 1935, the earliest references I could find.
  • The Railway Service Journal (later Transport Salaried Staff Journal) mentions 1935 after-dinner remarks by Stamp: "After dinner, Sir Josiah Stamp defined an optimist as 'the man who looks at his glass and says it is half full,' and the pessimist as 'the man who looks at it and says it is half empty.'" [Source]

  • Similarly, the Bristol Chamber of Commerce Journal mentions a 1935 speech: "A pessimist is a man who looks at the glass and describes it as half empty, and an optimist is a man who describes it as half full. It is all a question of the point of view." [Source]

  • A New York Times article (12 Nov 1935) includes "I came recently upon a graphic distinction drawn by Sir Josiah Stamp between an optimist and a pessimist," followed by the phrasing noted at the top. [Source, Source]
Added on 5-Aug-21 | Last updated 5-Aug-21
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“Supposing a tree fell down, Pooh, when we were underneath it?”

“Supposing it didn’t,” said Pooh after careful thought.

Piglet was comforted by this.

A. A. Milne (1882-1956) English poet and playwright [Alan Alexander Milne]
The House at Pooh Corner, ch. 8 “In Which Piglet Does A Very Grand Thing” (1928)
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Added on 26-Jul-21 | Last updated 26-Jul-21
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Hence it is that, though in every age everybody knows that up to his own time progressive improvement has been taking place, nobody seems to reckon on any improvement during the next generation. We cannot absolutely prove that those are in error who tell us that society has reached a turning point, that we have seen our best days. But so said all before us, and with just as much apparent reason.

Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859) English writer and politician
“Southey’s Colloquies on Society,” Edinburgh Review (1830)
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Review of Robert Southey, Sir Thomas More; or, Colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of Society (1829).
Added on 26-Jul-21 | Last updated 26-Jul-21
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The sad truth is that the truth is sad.

Lemony Snicket (b. 1970) American author, screenwriter, musician (pseud. for Daniel Handler)
The Carnivorous Carnival (2002)
Added on 17-Feb-21 | Last updated 17-Feb-21
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Conservatives know the world is a dark and forbidding place where most new knowledge is false, most improvements for the worse, the battle is not to the strong, nor riches to men of understanding, and an unscrupulous Providence consigns innocents to suffering.

George Will (b. 1941) American political commentator
“The Cubs and Conservatism” (21 Mar 1974), Bunts (1998)
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Will is, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, describing the origin of his conservatism in his being a fan of the Chicago Cubs baseball team.
Added on 10-Feb-21 | Last updated 10-Feb-21
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When did the future switch from being a promise to being a threat?

Chuck Palahniuk (b. 1962) American novelist and freelance journalist
Invisible Monsters (1999)
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Added on 4-Aug-20 | Last updated 4-Aug-20
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Every New Year is the direct descendant, isn’t it, of a long line of proven criminals?

Ogden Nash (1902-1971) American poet
“Good-bye, Old Year, You Oaf, or Why Don’t They Pay the Bonus?” (1935)
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Added on 17-Jul-20 | Last updated 17-Jul-20
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Pessimism about man serves to maintain the status quo. It is a luxury for the affluent, a sop to the guilt of the politically inactive, a comfort to those who continue to enjoy the amenities of privilege.

Leon Eisenberg (1922-2009) American psychiatrist and medical educator
“The Human Nature of Human Nature,” Science (14 Apr 1972)
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Based on an address at Faculty of Medicine Day, McGill University Sesquicentennial Celebration, Montreal, Canada (1 Oct 1971).
Added on 6-Jul-20 | Last updated 6-Jul-20
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Things never turn out either so well or so badly as they logically ought to do.

William Ralph Inge (1860-1954) English prelate [Dean Inge]
“The Future of the English Race,” Galton Lecture (1919), Outspoken Essays: First Series (1920)
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Added on 30-Mar-20 | Last updated 30-Mar-20
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Listen to the MUSTN’Ts, child,
Listen to the DON’Ts
Listen to the SHOULDN’Ts
The IMPOSSIBLES, the WON’Ts
Listen to the NEVER HAVEs
Then listen close to me —
Anything can happen, child,
ANYTHING can be.

Shel Silverstein (1930-1999) American poet, singer-songwriter, cartoonist, children's author
“Listen To The Mustn’ts,” Where the Sidewalk Ends (1974)
Added on 31-Jan-17 | Last updated 31-Jan-17
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“The first ten million years were the worst,” said Marvin, “and the second ten million years, they were the worst, too. The third ten million years I didn’t enjoy at all. After that I went into a bit of a decline.”

Douglas Adams (1952-2001) English writer
The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, ch. 18 (1980)
Added on 12-Sep-16 | Last updated 12-Sep-16
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One day I sat thinking, almost in despair; a hand fell on my shoulder and a voice said reassuringly: cheer up, things could get worse. So I cheered up and, sure enough, things got worse.

(Other Authors and Sources)
James Haggerty (1909-1981) Press Secretary to President Eisenhower
Added on 9-Aug-16 | Last updated 9-Aug-16
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Hope for the best.
Expect the worst.
The world’s a stage.
We’re unrehearsed.

Brooks - were unrehearsed - wist_info quote

Mel Brooks (b. 1926) American comedic actor, writer, producer [b. Melvyn Kaminsky]
The Twelve Chairs, “Hope for the Best, Expect the Worst”, chorus (1970)
Added on 20-Jul-16 | Last updated 20-Jul-16
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On a recent Sunday evening, Theo came up with an aphorism: the bigger you think, the crappier it looks. Asked to explain he said, “When we go on about the big things, the political situation, global warming, world poverty, it all looks really terrible, with nothing getting better, nothing to look forward to. But when I think small, closer in — you know, a girl I’ve just met, or this song we’re going to do with Chas, or snowboarding next month, then it looks great. So this is going to be my motto — think small.”

Ian McEwan (b. 1948) English novelist and screenwriter
Saturday (2005)
Added on 5-Jul-16 | Last updated 5-Jul-16
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There is freedom waiting for you,
On the breezes of the sky,
And you ask “What if I fall?”
Oh but my darling,
What if you fly?

Erin Hanson (b. 1996) Australian poet
“There is freedom waiting for you”
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Added on 4-May-16 | Last updated 4-May-16
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“Life is like a sewer — what you get out of it depends on what you put into it.” It’s always seemed to me that this is precisely the sort of dynamic, positive thinking that we so desperately need today in these trying times of crisis and universal brouhaha.

Tom Lehrer (b. 1928) American mathematician, satirist, songwriter
Introduction to “We Will All Go Together When We Go,” An Evening (Wasted) with Tom Lehrer (1959)
Added on 3-Mar-16 | Last updated 3-Mar-16
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Those see nothing but Faults that seek for nothing else.

Thomas Fuller (1654-1734) English writer, physician
Gnomologia: Adages and Proverbs, #5021 (1732)
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Added on 9-Feb-16 | Last updated 26-Jan-21
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He who laughs
Has not yet received
The terrible news.

[Der Lachende
Hat die furchtbare Nachricht
Nur noch nicht empfangen.]

Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) German poet, playwright, director, dramaturgist
“To Those Born Later [An die Nachgeborenen],” (1938) [tr. Horton (2008)]
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Alt. trans.: "He who laughs last has not yet heard the bad news," and "The man who laughs has simply not yet had the terrible news."

The title is also sometimes translated as "To Those Who Follow In Our Wake" and "To Those Born After."

Oddly enough, the German is sometimes given in paraphrase (or back-translated from the English): "Wer jetzt noch lacht, hat die neuesten Nachrichten noch nicht gehört." This German only appears to be found on quotation sites.
Added on 17-Dec-15 | Last updated 9-Sep-20
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Both optimists and pessimists contribute to our society. The optimist invents the airplane and the pessimist the parachute.

G. B. Stern (1890-1973) British writer [Gladys Bronwyn Stern]
(Attributed)
Added on 13-Apr-15 | Last updated 13-Apr-15
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Life’s under no obligation to give us what we expect. We take what we get and are thankful it’s no worse than it is.

Margaret Mitchell (1900-1949) American author and journalist.
Gone with the Wind, ch. 53 (1936)
Added on 30-Mar-15 | Last updated 30-Mar-15
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Talking of the danger of being mortified by rejection, when making approaches to the acquaintance of the great, I observed, “I am, however, generally for trying, ‘Nothing venture, nothing have.'” JOHNSON. “Very true, sir; but I have always been more afraid of failing, than hopeful of success.”

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English writer, lexicographer, critic
Comment (22 Sep 1777)
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In Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson (1791) See Heywood.
Added on 13-Jan-15 | Last updated 5-Jan-16
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Melancholy sees the worst of things, — things as they may be, and not as they are. It looks upon a beautiful face, and sees but a grinning skull.

Christian Nestell Bovee (1820-1904) American epigrammatist, writer, publisher
Intuitions and Summaries of Thought, Vol. 2 (1862)
Added on 1-Oct-13 | Last updated 17-Jan-20
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A pessimist is a man who looks both ways before crossing a one-way street.

Lawrence J Peter
Lawrence J. Peter (1919-1990) American educator, management theorist
Peter’s Quotations (1977)
Added on 30-May-12 | Last updated 3-Apr-20
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There is no sadder sight than a young pessimist, except an old optimist.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
Mark Twain’s Notebook, 22 Dec 1903 [ed. Paine (1935)]
Added on 5-Jan-12 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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To the question whether I am a pessimist or an optimist, I answer that my knowledge is pessimistic, but my willing and hoping are optimistic.

Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965) Alsatian theologian, philosopher, physician, philanthropist
Out of My Life and Thought, An Autobiography, Epilogue (1933) [tr. Campion]

See also Gramsci.
Added on 5-Apr-11 | Last updated 14-May-18
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When I look back on all these worries I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened.

Winston Churchill (1874-1965) British statesman and author
The Second World War, Vol. 2: Their Finest Hour, ch. 23 “September Tensions” (1949)
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Added on 4-Oct-10 | Last updated 25-Mar-19
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No pessimist ever discovered the secrets of stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new Heaven to the human spirit.

Helen Keller (1880-1968) American author and lecturer
“Optimism” (1903)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 16-Feb-15
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Don’t ever become a pessimist, Ira; a pessimist is correct oftener than an optimist, but an optimist has more fun — and neither can stop the march of events.

Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988) American writer
Time Enough for Love [Lazarus Long] (1973)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 12-May-15
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ZATHRAS: Yes, Zathras is used to being beast of burden to other people’s needs. Very sad life. Probably have very sad death. But at least there is symmetry.

J. Michael (Joe) Straczynski (b. 1954) American screenwriter, producer, author [a/k/a "JMS"]
Babylon 5, 3×16 “War Without End,” Part 1 (13 May 1996)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 17-Jul-20
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