Below we reproduce a brilliant humorous dialogue invented by the Bavarian comedian Karl Valentin which renders whole collections of essays on these topics redundant:
LANG. So, you are a pessimist?
KARL VALENTIN. And you? An optimist!
L. I am indeed.
K.V. So everything looks rosy to you?
L. Indeed – everything!
K.V. The roses too?
L. Well, I would imagine that the roses look rosy even to you!
K.V. The roses, yes – but apart from them, nothing much looks rosy!
L. So how do you see the world?
K.V. Well, not rosy, I’ll tell you that! – Even though the old song goes: ‘O how lovely is the world…’
L. But why not? – Don’t you find the world to be lovely?
K.V. Not at all! – What’s lovely about it? – Everything, from birth on, is the very opposite of lovely. Or do you find birth lovely? Ask a midwife.
L. Well, “lovely” it isn’t – but that’s just the way things are.
K.V. Yes, “just the way things are” – and that’s just what isn’t lovely. It would be “lovely”, in my opinion, if things weren’t the way they are at all.
L. But if things weren’t the way they are, then you wouldn’t be in the world at all!
K.V. And wouldn’t that be lovely!
L. But if everyone thought like you there would be no one in the world at all!
K.V. Still lovelier!
L. For whom?
K.V. For all the people who wouldn’t have to be in the world!
L. But people who were never in the world can’t decide whether the world is lovely or not!
K.V. But just that is the lovely thing: that they were never in the world.”
Here, Valentin wittily jumps over the Shadow of his own existence by declaring frankly and freely to his interlocutor that a course of the world without him, Valentin, in it would have been preferable to the actual course of the world. The interlocutor, on his side, proves practiced enough to retort that it cannot really have been a fine thing for those human beings who never existed to have indeed not existed.