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Young & Old

Filmmaker Errol Morris has written a relatively sparse column for The New York Times, in which he basically wants folks to chime-in as to whether or not they're an optimist or a pessimist about humanity surviving a massive asteroid impacting the Earth. I went ahead and answered the two-part questionnaire at the end of the article, even though the subject matter didn't really move me one way or the other. What did interest me, however, is the question of whether one is an optimist or a pessimist. Specifically, I am interested in whether one becomes more pessimistic about the future when they grow older.

Allow me to explain.

It would seem that many of the older people I've encountered, at various stages of my life, haven't had a very rosy outlook for the future of mankind. "Going to hell in a handbasket" is a phrase oft-used by  crotchety elders. They seem to lack much enthusiasm or positivity for what lies ahead. Of course, I realize that this is anecdotal, lest someone decide to comment that their 80-year-old Uncle Jack is the most uplifting person they know. It's a generalization, to be sure, but one based one experience. And, yes, there are negative younger people, but they seem fewer in number.

Is it that older people have less time on this Earth, so they put less thought into how things could be better and, when faced with the ever-present challenges of humanity, it's simply easier for them, as short-timers, to go straight to a "we're fucked" mentality? Excuse the french. But, really, are the young more optimistic than the old? I know I am (shocking as that may sound, because I tend to often be a verbal pessimist). It's just that, knock on wood, I hope to have another three-to-four decades here, and so it's kind of important that things don't go to hell. I like this life. I want it to be good. For me. For us. And for a long time to come. I can't just throw up my hands and say, "Oh well."

What say you, reader? Is my thesis completely in error? Is there no real disparate thought between old and young when it comes to a future outlook? Or is there some truth to the notion? What do you think? Perhpaps, if I'm fortunate enough to live to be an old man, I'll change my tune and look at the young people around me with a 'good luck, suckers' mentality. But I hope not. We're all in this together, and together -- with any luck -- it can only get better.


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