Pessimist or Optimist?

More  “isms”… how much time have I spent trying to understand capitalism, communism, terrorism,  atheism, secular humanism, existentialism, feminism… the list goes on and on!?  I think I have worked out a personal understanding and point of view on many of them. But I can never quite decide where I stand on optimism and pessimism.  That is why I enjoyed this Aislin cartoon!

Maybe it goes along with Interrobang… curiosity and enthusiasm… question and exclaim.  Questioning can make me very pessimistic, but then the desire to share and discuss shows itself as an optimistic search for understanding and certainty. Questioning is isolating, exclaiming is social. I must have both!

Perhaps I just enjoy exploring ironic juxtapositions, ethical dilemmas, ambiguity.

This would explain my delight  with the ambivalence and  collaboration in the image of the goddess of Willendorf and the Botticelli Venus that I talked about in the second blog on International Women’s Day, March 8. Which of the two manifestations of the female is optimistic, and which is pessimistic!? What would be the impact if the Willendorf venus were beautifully rendered in a narrative painting, and Botticelli’s venus reduced to a little  amulet we could carry in our pockets or put on a charm bracelet or key chain!? What if the image were to be reversed, Willendorf’s head and bosom, Botticelli’s body and feet? Are the primitive earth mother and the elegant sophisticated beauty each rooted exclusively in their own time and place? Do they co-exist, symbolically and simultaneously, in all women, or do they take turns, or are they antagonists!? Is this interesting combination of images a platonic ideal, wishful thinking, or a challenge to feminine and feminist understanding!?

I can argue it either way. Coaching school debating activities, I always prepared my students to argue both points of view. It can be either an interesting mental challenge, or a very bad habit. There is also a saying that you can also be so open-minded that your brains fall out. (No, I don’t know who said it… it has been attributed to many!)

Ambigrams are an interesting example of combining opposites into coherent and unified images.  Years ago I bought a book of clever and visually interesting  ambigrams designed by John Langdon, Wordplay. It is worth looking for.

Watch this for a minute… isn’t it fascinating!?


 There are more online and in “google images”, although without graphic assistance you may need to stand on your head or imaginatively reverse them. If you find one you particularly like, link it back in comments, and we can gather a collection of favourites!

An Aztec calendar and an Oreo cookie.  Pessimist and optimist. Question mark and exclamation point. Willendorf and Renaissance women. True and false. What is there not to celebrate in such perceptive juxtapositions!?

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