Despite our times of comfort and plenty, optimism is under assault. Pessimism is leaping to the attack. Optimism appears to have fewer and fewer adherents. While natural temperament, derived from heredity or environment or both, is the foundation, philosophical conviction builds on it, sometimes in surprising ways. An illustration of this is the case of my friend, the Australian painter Fred Cress (1938–2009). I had a moving discussion with him when he was terminally ill from cancer. He died a week or so after I visited him in his studio. Fred’s paintings are dark, even macabre at times. While superbly…
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