THE AGONY OF ECSTASY

WITH ALL THIS GOOD NEWS, WHAT'S A PESSIMIST TO DO?

It has always seemed to me that if you want to be taken seriously, you can't be too optimistic. People who see how bad things are get respect. When they make a triangle with their fingertips and thumbs and say, "What I find deeply troubling..." or "I fear I take a less sanguine view..." everybody listens, brows furrowed. Go around acting as if everything's wonderful, though, and you'll be dismissed as an ignorant lightweight, shallow and simpleminded. "What, me worry?" was Alfred E. Neuman's motto, not Thomas Mann's.

Mindful of this prejudice, I've spent a lifetime identifying this or that disturbing...

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