Our young man gets a job as a proofreader, and his outlook changes, his spirits are lifted.
I had to travel precisely all around the world to find just such a comfortable, agreeable niche as this. It seems incredible almost. How could I have foreseen, in America, with all those firecrackers they put up your ass to give you pep and courage, that the ideal position for a man of my temperament was to look for orthographic mistakes? Over there you think of nothing but becoming President of the United States some day. Potentially every man is Presidential timber. Here it’s different. Here every man is potentially a zero. If you become something or somebody it is an accident, a miracle. (…)
But it’s just because the chances are all against you, just because there is so little hope, that life is sweet over here. Day by day. No yesterdays and no tomorrows. The barometer never changes, the flag is always at half-mast. (p. 150)
Eternal pessimist that I am, I like this type of thinking. It’s the "I’ve been down so long it looks like up to me" attitude that brings some of us over the fences, up the hills, stumbling toward the finish line.
It is an odd philosophy of life this, but then, the land of milk and honey is a myth and not more than one out of thousands of Bay City, Michigan little girls grows up to be Madonna. When you’ve never held a rose, the little violet is astonishing. Think about this: "But it’s just because the chances are all against you, just because there is so little hope, that life is sweet over here.
It is a matter of perception based on experience that determines expectations that are realistic. Maybe it is the opposite of dreaming, and for many, dreams are what keep them alive. Many achieve their dreams, or a reasonable facsimile. Many more never do, for dreams and hopes do not pay college tuition, win lottery tickets, or charm George Clooney into a marriage proposal. Time and space play a large part, as to opportunity and ambition. Just because you’ve the confidence to believe in yourself and think you’re good, doesn’t mean you are.
The strange thing about this in our narrator is that when he adopts this perspective, he becomes happier, recognizing that while he is in miserable circumstances, he is still one step above bottom ground.