Louis Sullivan: Kindergarten Chats: On Optimism

Let me remark in passing, what this poor word optimism has suffered at the hand of the silly, the superficial and unreflecting, and, above all, at the hand of the professional optimist. We have seen enough to know that a modern optimism must be based on a grasp of things and assurances fairly well seen, rather than in a vague essence of things unseen. And among these things and assurances fairly well seen by us are man’s powers and the creative fertility of nature.

Man, in enlarging knowledge and understanding of man and his powers, his increasing insight into nature’s processes, will arrive at an optimism completely sane, and utilize it as an interpretative, creative, constructive power for the upbuilding of his new home. Such optimism is truly worthwhile. Its basis is clear to the imaginative inquiring mind: its uses equally clear to the imaginative constructive mind.

In this sense, the beginning of an optimistic career by you may be considered well grounded, and there remains little danger that you will decline into considering optimism of will and of character but a sentimental, fleeting or capricious attitude of mind. You will meet with difficulties, to be sure; but with patience these may be overcome by means of a thoroughly developed professional technique. Remember above all, not only that your art starts with utility, but that the foundation of utility is the sole foundation and guaranty of its expression in your hands into the beautiful. It lies with you to demonstrate the thorough-going value of optimism as imaged in results.

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