Indeed, fundamentally, the pessimistic account of the origin of unhappiness (even, I would maintain, in Freud) has little to do with psychology itself but with a claim of ontological misalignment between human beings and the world they inhabit. ~Joshua Foa Dienstag, Pessimism: Philosophy, Ethic, Spirit (p.33)

Dienstag is not talking about any of these things in relation to Christian theology.  Though he does mention Dostoevsky among the many pessimists of modernity (and it is perhaps by way of Dostoevsky that I have come to appreciate the insights of pessimism–it is also encouraging to think that Dostoevsky’s view was indeed as philosophical as I have thought it was and not simply a function of stereotypical Russian angst), he does not concern himself with modern Christian thought at all in this book.  But the pessimists’ recognition that man and the world are “ontologically misaligned,” that there is something deeply awry in our condition and that our predicament is one of continual mismatching of desires and achievement stands as a ringing confirmation of the Christian description of the state of man after the Fall. 

It is also true, as more than a few have observed over the years, that there is a strong resemblance between Schopenhauer’s pessimism and the teachings of the Buddha that all life is dukkha, often translated as suffering, because of the impossibility of satisfying craving and desire: either the desire or the achievement of the desideratum will be too great or too little, creating dissatisfaction, which cannot be cured except through the cessation of desire.  Many a deracinated child of nominal Christians has thought that in this teaching lies some hidden wisdom that Christianity has never taught, which would be mistaken–the extinction of desire, detachment, is the same concept and same goal of the ascetic life in Orthodox Christianity, which the early monastic writers termed apatheia (dispassion), borrowing from the lexicon of Plato and the Neoplatonists. 

Where the pessimists will not go, of course, because they do not believe in any ultimate solution of any kind, is to the Christian answer to the human predicament, but in their assessment of the predicament they are that much more realistic than the people who seek to sugar-coat the nature of the world with promises of a better tomorrow and grandiose schemes for reform and progress.  The Christian pessimist, if I can use such a term, acknowledges the finitude and createdness that are integral to our being, but he also places his hope in deliverance that is from beyond the ages and an adoption into the divine life of God.  

The pessimist’s recognition that no advance comes except at a price (and sometimes too high a price) and a related insight that you abolish a structure in human life in the name of emancipation only to find it re-emerging in its “black market” forms elsewhere (as Chantal Delsol has argued in Icarus Fallen) point to a certain structure and logic in reality that I think even the pessimists in their embrace of the absurd tend to miss.  This recognition of the costs of any change, though not framed in specifically conservative language, also can be seen as standing in close relation to conservative critiques of all forms of social engineering and the common sense view that there is no free lunch.