Most people who know me will tell you to your face, though seldom to mine, that my demeanor in person is something less than exuberant. In fact, it's something a lot less than exuberant. Despondent, despairing, depressed — it sounds like the worst possible Cole Porter lyric. On the other hand, I don't let it get to me, so to speak.

Damon Runyon once opined that life, at best, was six-to-five against; most of us working nine-to-five find the odds closer to forty-to-one. And that, according to your friendly neighborhood Social Darwinist, is the way things ought to be; if we bottom-feeders had any real merit, we'd be rolling in wealth. Of course, a perfunctory glance at any year's Forbes 400 suggests that our real failure lies in our unaccountably poor choice of ancestors.

Being born with a Dairy Queen spoon in one's mouth, though, is not enough to drag a person down to the depths. It takes some serious effort to hit bottom on a regular basis. And while ignorance does not automatically result in bliss, the getting of wisdom inevitably entails the shedding of tears.

Not that I am particularly wise, you understand. I am tolerably bright, I suppose, and I can usually get through an article of this length without setting off the alarm on the spell-checker, but I do know my limitations. And they are severe enough to k